Skip to main content

Full text of "The Evolution of Civilizations - An Introduction to Historical Analysis (1979)"

See other formats

The Evolution An Introduction to Carroll Quigley 

of Civilizations Historical Analysis 


The Evolution of Civilizations 

The Evolution of Civilizations 

(Zlje (Euolutum of (TMlteariona 

cheeuo&raow orciutfiMnows 


\ _.jqt>= jr IM-M 

The Evolution 
of Civilizations 

In this perceptive look at the factors behind the rise and fall of 
civilizations, Professor Quigley seeks to establish the analytical 
tools necessary for understanding history. He examines the applica- 
tion of scientific method to the social sciences, then establishes his 
historical hypotheses. He poses a division of culture into six levels, 
from the more abstract to the more concrete — intellectual, religious, 
social, political, economic, and military — and he identifies seven 
stages of historical change for all civilizations: mixture, gestation, 
expansion, conflict, universal empire, decay, and invasion. Quigley 
tests these hypotheses by a detailed analysis of five major civilizations: 
the Mesopotamian, the Canaanite, the Minoan, the classical, and 
the Western. 

"He has reached sounder ground than has Arnold J. Toynbee" 
— Christian Science Monitor. "Studies of this nature, rare in American 
historiography, should be welcomed. Quigley's juxtaposition of facts 
in a novel order is often provocative, and his work yields a harvest of 
insights" — American Historical Review. "Extremely illuminating" 
— Kirkus Reviews. "This is an amazing book. . . . Quigley avoids the 
lingo of expertise; indeed, the whole performance is sane, impres- 
sively analytical, and well balanced" — Library Journal. 

CARROLL QUIGLEY taught the history of civilization at the 
Georgetown School of Foreign Service, and was the author of Trag- 
edy and Hope: The World in Our Time. 


Diagrams, Tables, and Maps 11 

Foreword, by Harry J. Hogan 13 

Preface to the First Edition 23 

1. Scientific Method and the Social Sciences 31 

2. Man and Culture 49 

3. Groups, Societies, and Civilizations 67 

4. Historical Analysis 85 

5. Historical Change in Civilizations 127 

6. The Matrix of Early Civilizations 167 

7. Mesopotamian Civilization 209 

8. Canaanite and Minoan Civilizations 239 

9. Classical Civilization 269 

10. Western Civilization 333 

Conclusion 415 

Selective Bibliography, by William Marina 423 

Index 429 

Diagrams, Tables, and Maps 

Dividing the Dimension of Abstraction 56 

Men, Culture, and Nature 64 

Cultural Links of Fourteen Civilizations 83 

Morphology in Our Civilization 121 

Stages of Evolution in Five Civilizations 165 

Geographic Features of the Northwest Quadrant 171 

Peoples, Languages, and Cultures About 3000 B.C 173 

Geography and Peoples About 3000 B.C 176 

Simplified Diagram of the World Globe 183 

Population Movements, 10,000-6000 B.C 191 

Bronze Age Invasions, 3000-1000 B.C 199 

Movements of Metals and Agriculture to 

Europe, 4000-2000 B.C 201 

Iron Age Invasions, 1200-1000 B.C 205 

Stages in Western Civilization 389 


By Harry J. Hogan 

r I 1 he Evolution of Civilizations expresses two dimensions 
■*- of its author, Carroll Quigley, that most extraordinary 
historian, philosopher, and teacher. In the first place, its 
scope is wide-ranging, covering the whole of man's activities 
throughout time. Second, it is analytic, not merely descrip- 
tive. It attempts a categorization of man's activities in 
sequential fashion so as to provide a causal explanation of 
the stages of civilization. 

Quigley coupled enormous capacity for work with a 
peculiarly "scientific" approach. He believed that it should 
be possible to examine the data and draw conclusions. As 
a boy at the Boston Latin School, his academic interests 
were mathematics, physics, and chemistry. Yet during his 
senior year he was also associate editor of the Register, 
the oldest high school paper in the country. His articles were 

Dr. Hogan, now retired, has been a professor, administrator, and 
lawyer. He received his B.A. magna cum laude from Princeton 
University, his LL.B. from Columbia Law School, and his Ph.D. 
in American history from George Washington University. His arti- 
cles have appeared in the American Bar Association Journal, the 
Journal of Politics, and other periodicals. 

14- The Evolution of Civilizations 

singled out for national awards by a national committee 
headed by George Gallup. 

At Harvard, biochemistry was to be his major. But 
Harvard, expressing then a belief regarding a well-rounded 
education to which it has now returned, required a core 
curriculum including a course in the humanities. Quigley 
chose a history course, "Europe Since the Fall of Rome." 
Always a contrary man, he was graded at the top of his 
class in physics and calculus and drew a C in the history 
course. But the development of ideas began to assert its 
fascination for him, so he elected to major in history. He 
graduated magna cum laude as the top history student in 
his class. 

Quigley was always impatient. He stood for his doctorate 
oral examination at the end of his second year of graduate 
studies. Charles Howard Mcllwain, chairman of the ex- 
amining board, was very impressed by Quigley's answer 
to his opening question; the answer included a long quo- 
tation in Latin from Robert Grosseteste, bishop of Lincoln 
in the thirteenth century. Professor Mcllwain sent Quigley 
to Princeton University as a graduate student instructor. 
In the spring of 1937 I was a student in my senior year 
at Princeton. Quigley was my preceptor in medieval history. 
He was Boston Irish; I was New York Irish. Both of us, 
Catholics adventuring in a strangely Protestant establish- 
ment world, were fascinated by the Western intellectual 
tradition anchored in Augustine, Abelard, and Aquinas 
that seemed to have so much more richness and depth than 
contemporary liberalism. We became very close in a trea- 
sured friendship that was terminated only by his death. 
In the course of rereading The Evolution of Civilizations 
I was reminded of the intensity of our dialogue. In Quigley's 

Foreword «15 

view, which I shared, our age was one of irrationality. That 
spring we talked about what career decisions I should 
make. At his urging I applied to and was admitted by the 
Harvard Graduate School in History. But I had reservations 
about an academic career in the study of the history that I 
loved, on the ground that on Quigley's own analysis the 
social decisions of importance in our lifetime would be made 
in ad hoc irrational fashion in the street. On that reasoning, 
finally I transferred to law school. 

In Princeton, Carroll Quigley met and married Lillian 
Fox. They spent their honeymoon in Paris and Italy on a 
fellowship to write his doctoral dissertation, a study of the 
public administration of the Kingdom of Italy, 1805-14. 
The development of the state in western Europe over the 
last thousand years always fascinated Quigley. He regarded 
the development of public administration in the Napoleonic 
states as a major step in the evolution of the modern state. 
It always frustrated him that each nation, including our 
own, regards its own history as unique and the history of 
other nations as irrelevant to it. 

In 1938-41, Quigley served a stint at Harvard, tutoring 
graduate students in ancient and medieval history. It offered 
little opportunity for the development of cosmic views and 
he was less than completely content there. It was, however, 
a happy experience for me. I had entered Harvard Law 
School. We began the practice of having breakfast together 
at Carroll and Lillian's apartment. 

In 1941 Quigley accepted a teaching appointment at 
Georgetown's School of Foreign Service. It was to engage 
his primary energies throughout the rest of his busy life. 
There he became an almost legendary teacher. He chose to 
teach a course, "The Development of Civilization," required 

16- The Evolution of Civilizations 

of the incoming class, and that course ultimately provided 
the structure and substance for The Evolution of Civiliza- 
tions. As a course in his hands, it was a vital intellectual ex- 
perience for young students, a mind-opening adventure. 
Foreign Service School graduates, meeting years later in 
careers around the world, would establish rapport with 
each other by describing their experience in his class. It 
was an intellectual initiation with remembered impact that 
could be shared by people who had graduated years apart. 
The fortunes of life brought us together again. During 
World War II I served as a very junior officer on Admiral 
King's staff in Washington. Carroll and I saw each other 
frequently. Twenty years later, after practicing law in Ore- 
gon, I came into the government with President Kennedy. 
Our eldest daughter became a student under Carroll at 
Georgetown University. We bought a house close by Carroll 
and Lillian. I had Sunday breakfast with them for years 
and renewed our discussions of the affairs of a disintegrating 

Superb teacher Quigley was, and could justify a lifetime 
of prodigious work on that success alone. But ultimately he 
was more. To me he was a figure — he would scoff at this — 
like Augustine, Abelard, and Aquinas, searching for the 
truth through examination of ultimate reality as it was re- 
vealed in history. Long ago, he left the church in the formal 
sense. Spiritually and intellectually he never left it. He never 
swerved from his search for the meaning of life. He never 
placed any goal in higher priority. If the God of the Western 
civilization that Quigley spent so many years studying does 
exist in the terms that he saw ascribed to him by our civiliza- 
tion, that God will now have welcomed Quigley as one who 
has pleased him. 

Foreword -17 

In an age characterized by violence, extraordinary per- 
sonal alienation, and the disintegration of family, church, 
and community, Quigley chose a life dedicated to ration- 
ality. He addressed the problem of explaining change in 
the world around us, first examined by Heraclitus in ancient 
Greece. Beneath that constant change, so apparent and 
itself so real, what is permanent and unchanging? 
Quigley wanted an explanation that in its very categori- 
zation would give meaning to a history which was a record 
of constant change. Therefore the analysis had to include 
but not be limited to categories of subject areas of human 
activity — military, political, economic, social, religious, 
intellectual. It had to describe change in categories ex- 
pressed sequentially in time — mixture, gestation, expan- 
sion, conflict, universal empire, decay, invasion. It was a 
most ambitious effort to make history rationally under- 
standable. F. E. Manuel, in his review of this book for the 
American Historical Review, following its first publication 
in 1961, described it as on "sounder ground" than the work 
of Toynbee. 

Quigley found the explanation of disintegration in the 
gradual transformation of social "instruments" into "insti- 
tutions," that is, the transformation of social arrangements 
functioning to meet real social needs into social institutions 
serving their own purposes regardless of real social needs. 
In an ideologically Platonistic society, social arrangements 
are molded to express a rigidly idealized version of reality. 
Such institutionalization would not have the flexibility to 
accommodate to the pressures of changing reality for which 
the ideology has no categories of thought that will allow 
perception, analysis, and handling. But the extraordinary 
distinction of Western civilization is that its ontology allows 

1 8- The Evolution of Civilizations 

an open-ended epistemology. It is engaged in a constant 
effort to understand reality which is perceived as in con- 
stant change. Therefore, our categories of knowledge are 
themselves always subject to change. As a consequence 
reform is always possible. 

The question today is whether we have lost that Western 
view of reality which has given our 2,000 years of history 
its unique vitality, constantly pregnant with new versions 
of social structure. In Evolution, Quigley describes the basic 
ideology of Western civilization as expressed in the state- 
ment, "The truth unfolds in time through a communal 
process." Therefore, Quigley saw the triumph in the thir- 
teenth century of the moderate realism of Aquinas over 
dualistic exaggerated realism derived from Platonism as the 
major epistemologic triumph that opened up Western civili- 
zation. People must constantly search for the "truth" by 
building upon what others have learned. But no knowledge 
can be assumed to be complete and final. It could be contra- 
dicted by new information received tomorrow. In episte- 
mology, Quigley always retained his belief in the scientific 
method. Therefore, he saw Hegel and Marx as presump- 
tuous, in error, and outside the Western tradition in their 
analysis of history as an ideologic dialectic culminating in 
the present or immediate future in a homeostatic condition. 
Quigley comments upon the constant repetition of conflict 
and expansion stages in Western history. That reform 
process owes its possibility to the uniquely Western belief 
that truth is continually unfolding. Therefore Western 
civilization is capable of reexamining its direction and its 
institutions, and changing both as appears necessary. So 
in Western history, there was a succession of technologi- 
cal breakthroughs in agricultural practice and in commerce. 

Foreword «19 

Outmoded institutions like feudalism and — in the commer- 
cial area — municipal mercantilism in the period 1270- 
1440, and state mercantilism in the period 1690-1810 were 
discarded. Similarly, we may also survive the economic 
crisis described by Quigley as monopoly capitalism in the 
present post- 1900 period. 

Yet Quigley perceives — correctly in my view — the possi- 
ble termination of open-ended Western civilization. With 
access to an explosive technology that can tear the planet 
apart, coupled with the failure of Western civilization to 
establish any viable system of world government, local 
political authority will tend to become violent and abso- 
lutist. As we move into irrational activism, states will seize 
upon ideologies that justify absolutism. The 2,000-year 
separation in Western history of state and society would 
then end. Western people would rejoin those of the rest 
of the world in merging the two into a single entity, authori- 
tarian and static. The age that we are about to enter would 
be an ideologic one consistent with the views of Hegel and 
Marx — a homeo static condition. That triumph would end 
the Western experiment and return us to the experience 
of the rest of the world — namely, that history is a sequence 
of stages in the rise and fall of absolutist ideologies. 
America is now in a crisis-disintegrating stage. In such a 
condition, absent a philosophy, people turn readily to charis- 
matic personalities. So at the beginning of our time of 
troubles, in the depression of the 1930s, we turned to 
Franklin D. Roosevelt. He took us through the depression 
and World War II. We were buoyed by his optimism and 
reassured by the strength and confidence of his personality. 
Within the Western tradition he provided us with no solu- 
tions; he simply preserved options. When he died, all 

20- The Evolution of Civilizations 

America was in shock. We had lost our shield. Carroll came 
over to my place that night. We talked in the subdued 
fashion of a generation that had lost its guardian and would 
now have to face a hostile world on its own. 
Since then we in America have been denied the easy-out 
of charismatic leadership. It may just be that we shall have 
to follow the route that Quigley has marked out for us in 
this book. We may have to look at our history, analyze it, 
establish an identity in that analysis, and make another try 
at understanding reality in a fashion consistent with that 
open-ended tradition. 

If so, America, acting for Western civilization, must find 
within the history of that civilization the intellectual and 
spiritual reserves to renew itself within the tradition. Strik- 
ing as was the impact of this book at the time of its first 
publication, in 1961, its major impact will be in support of 
that effort in the future. There is hope that in Western 
civilization the future ideology will be rational. If so, it 
would be consistent with an epistemology that accepts the 
general validity of sensory experience and the possibility 
of making generalizations from that experience, subject to 
modification as additional facts are perceived. It is that 
epistemology which was termed moderate realism in the 
thirteenth century and, in its epistemologic aspects, is now 
known as the scientific method. Such a rational ideology is 
probable only if it is developed out of the special history 
of the West. As appreciation of that spreads, the kind of 
analysis that Carroll Quigley develops in this book is the 
analysis that the West must use. 

Such as effort would be consistent in social terms with 
Quigley's view of his own life. He greatly admired his 
mother, a housewife, and his father, a Boston firechief, and 

Foreword *21 

described them as teaching him to do his best at whatever 
he chose to put his energies. That was their way of saying 
what Carroll would have described as man's responsibility 
to understand and relate actively to a continually unfolding 
reality. He dedicated his life to that purpose. 

Preface to the 
First Edition 

r I ''his book is not a history. Rather it is an attempt to es- 
■*- tablish analytical tools that will assist the understand- 
ing of history. Most historians will regard such an effort as 
unnecessary or even impossible. Some answer must be made 
to these two objections. 

Those who claim that no analytical tools are needed in 
order to write history are naive. To them the facts of history 
are relatively few and are simply arranged. The historian's 
task is merely to find these facts; their arrangement will be 
obvious. But it should require only a moment's thought to 
recognize that the facts of the past are infinite, and the pos- 
sible arrangements of any selection from these facts are 
equally numerous. Since all the facts cannot be mobilized 
in any written history because of their great number, there 
must be some principle on which selection from these facts 
is based. Such a principle is a tool of historical analysis. Any 
sophisticated historian should be aware of the principles he 
uses and should be explicit to his readers about these. After 
all, any past event, even the writing of this book, is a fact of 
history, but most such facts, including this book, do not 
deserve to be mentioned in the narration of history. 

24 • The Evolution of Civilizations 

If historians are not explicit, at least to themselves, about 
their principles of selection among the facts of the past and 
among the many possible arrangements of these facts, all 
histories will be simply accidental compilations that cannot 
be justified in any rational way. Historians will continue to 
write about some of the events of history while neglecting 
others equally significant or even more significant, and they 
will form patterns for these facts along lines determined by 
traditional (and basically accidental) lines or in reflection 
of old controversies about the patterns of these facts. 
This, indeed, is pretty much what we have in history to- 
day. In American history, for example, dozens of books 
examine and reexamine the same old issues without, in most 
cases, contributing much that is new or different. The cen- 
tral fact of American history is the process by which a 
society with European cultural patterns was modified by the 
selective process of emigration from Europe and the op- 
portunity to exploit the enormous, largely virgin, resources 
of the New World. Yet in most histories of the United 
States, this subject is hardly mentioned. Instead we have 
volume after volume of discussion on the rivalry of Jeffer- 
sonians and Hamiltonians or on the unrealistic problem 
whether the American Civil War was a repressible or an 
irrepressible conflict or on whether the American lapse into 
isolationism after World War I was caused more by the 
vindictiveness of Lodge or the inflexibility of Wilson. 
To the non-American world the central fact of American 
history is American technology — what they used to call 
"Fordism," meaning mass production. Until very recently 
there was no history of American technology in existence, 
and even today this vital subject obtains only incidental 

Preface *25 

mention, with an almost total lack of real understanding, in 
most histories of the United States. 

As we have said, the content of most books depends upon 
accidental factors or, at most, on the rehash of ancient con- 
troversies. The Civil War has commanded major attention, 
but there is little recognition of the real significance of this 
war; namely, that after giving an impetus to industrializa- 
tion, it left a residue of emotional patterns that alienated the 
farmers of the South and the farmers of the West so that the 
country could be dominated politically by the high finance 
and heavy industry of the East. This situation, which forms 
the essential background for such familiar phenomena as 
the agrarian discontent and third-party movements of the 
period 1873-1933, as well as the attacks on political ma- 
chines and the rise of civil service, or the growth of muck- 
raking or progressivism, and of government regulation of 
business, is rarely presented in adequate fashion as the 
background that it is. Instead these events are mentioned as 
if they were merely accidental occurrences related in some 
obscure fashion to the idiosyncrasies of Americans. And the 
average college student of American history finishes his 
study without any idea why the Republican party became 
the party of big business in 1892-1932, what the Whitneys 
contributed to American life, or the significant contributions 
of Joseph Henry or Josiah Willard Gibbs (1839-1903) to 
the world today. 

In the incredible and growing excitement over the Civil 
War, tradition and stale controversy continue to determine 
the centers of attention. The Battle of Gettysburg has been 
fought and refought (with four major books in the last six 
months), just as if the South ever really had a chance of 

26- The Evolution of Civilizations 

winning the war, in this or any other battle, while the Battle 
of Petersburg, which is of far greater tactical significance 
(since it was a direct foretaste of 1914-18), is almost 
totally neglected. 

Matters are no better in European history. To mention 
only one point, in which I am personally very interested, the 
one dominant central fact of European history over the last 
thousand years has been the almost steady growth of public 
authority and the public services. We could never guess this 
from the history books. Or again, reams have been written 
on the French Revolution and its origins, yet some of the 
most vital points are hardly mentioned. We have been told 
repeatedly that the government of the Old Regime was 
"absolute" and that the Revolution began because this re- 
gime was financially "bankrupt." Few have seen the para- 
dox lying in a situation where an "absolute state" could 
not tax its subjects. A colleague on the faculty at Princeton 
once stated in conversation as a fact that the Revolution 
occurred in France because that country was the most ad- 
vanced in Europe. When I replied that, in my opinion, the 
Revolution came in France because the French government 
was one of the most backward in Europe, he was astonished. 
I am not trying here to consider this problem; I am simply 
trying to point out that this is a problem that certainly 
should have been examined in connection with the study of 
the French Revolution and that just as surely would have 
been discussed in any historical work based on rational tools 
of historical analysis. Because such tools have not been 
used, study of the French Revolution, like the study of other 
matters, has concentrated its attention on those aspects of 
the problem that came to be discussed largely for traditional 
and accidental reasons. In fact, the chief force directing the 

Preface -27 

historiography of the French Revolution has not been a 
determined effort to find what happened but rather has been 
the party conflicts of the Third French Republic. Once these 
partisan motivations are rejected, a history of the French 
Revolution could be written that, with equal justification, 
would have discussed quite different aspects of the subject. 
Without principles of selection among the facts and theories, 
one selection is as well justified as another on any grounds 
outside tradition. 

So much for the historians who say that tools of historical 
analysis are unnecessary. To the much smaller group of 
historians who say that such tools are impossible to obtain, 
I can only offer this book as an attempt. This group of critics 
is much more difficult to deal with. They are skeptics so- 
phisticated enough to recognize that there is a problem, but 
not consistent enough to cease being historians when they 
insist that there is no solution. The only justification they 
can offer is to fall back on tradition once again. These 
skeptics recognize the infinity of past facts and the sub- 
jectivity of the criteria usually used in making a selection 
from these facts, but they are content to continue to work 
with the traditionally acceptable selections from both. I 
offer them here principles of selection based on the methods 
used in science, but I recognize the difficulty of the problem 
of persuading them that I have anything helpful. As skeptics 
these people are almost impervious to persuasion. 
I came into history from a primary concern with mathe- 
matics and science. This has been a tremendous help to me 
as a person and as a historian, although it must be admitted 
it has served to make my historical interpretations less con- 
ventional than may be acceptable to many of my colleagues 
in the field. 

28- The Evolution of Civilizations 

My greatest personal debt to historians has been to Fred- 
eric William Maitland and to Charles Howard Mcllwain. 
The former I did not know, although his influence on me 
has been very great. The latter, my best-loved teacher, re- 
mains the model of my professional life. 
This book was read in manuscript by Crane Brinton of 
Harvard and A. L. Rowse of All Souls College, Oxford; it 
has benefited from their diametrically opposed opinions. To 
Professor Brinton, as teacher and friend during three dec- 
ades, I owe many favors. A word of thanks is also due to 
that great and lamented scholar, the late Donald Cope 
McKay of Harvard, who, as my undergraduate tutor, first 
introduced me to ancient history. And finally, no words can 
express my gratitude to my wife, Lillian Fox Quigley, whose 
patient and expert assistance has made many rough roads 
smooth during the quarter century since we first went off 
to Europe when she was in her teens. 

Oxford, England 
June 1961 

The Evolution of Civilizations 

Scientific Method and the 
Social Sciences 

Touring the summer that I was twelve years old, I walked 
"*-^four or five times a week to fish from Hingham Bridge. 
The distance was about five miles, part of it along a high 
railroad embankment that had been ballasted with crushed 
quartz. In this ballast were hundreds of quartz crystals. Each 
day I stopped awhile to look for a perfect crystal. I found 
some excellent ones, but never one that could be called per- 
fect. The books I consulted told me that a quartz crystal 
should be a hexagonal prism with a regular hexagonal pyra- 
mid at the end. The ones I found were invariably irregular 
in some way, with sides of varying sizes, frequently with 
several crystals jammed together so that, in seeking to share 
the same material, they mutually distorted each other's 
hexagonal regularity. 

After several weeks of casual searching, I found three or 
four crystals that were almost perfect, at least at the pyra- 
midal end. But to find these, I had examined and discarded 
hundreds of distorted crystals. By what right, I asked, did 
the books say that quartz crystals occurred in regular pyra- 
midal hexagonal prisms when only a small percentage of 
those found had such a shape? Obviously, the books meant 

32- The Evolution of Civilizations 

that crystallized quartz has a tendency to take hexagonal 
form and will do so unless distorted by outside forces. The 
fact that ninety-nine percent are distorted does not deter 
the scientist from forming in his mind an idealized picture of 
an undistorted crystal, or from stating, in books, that quartz 
crystals occur in that idealized form. 

Later, when I studied science in school and college, I 
found that most scientific "laws" were of this idealized 
character. They were not statements of what actually hap- 
pens in the world or of what we observe through our senses, 
but rather were highly idealized and much oversimplified 
relationships that might occur if a great many other in- 
fluences, which were always present, were neglected. I 
found that the most highly praised "scientific laws" attrib- 
uted to great men like Galileo or Newton were of this 
character. It was a blow to discover that Newton's laws of 
planetary motion did not, in fact, describe the movements 
of the sun's satellites as we observe them, except in a very 
approximate way. In some cases, notably that of the planet 
Mercury, the approximation was by no means close. 
Still later, when my interests shifted from the physical 
sciences to the social sciences, and I worked with students 
of human society who were generally lacking in any close 
familiarity with the natural sciences, I found a curious situ- 
ation. The social scientists usually had erroneous ideas 
about the methods and theories of natural science, believing 
them to be rigid, exact, and invariable. Accordingly, they 
felt that these methods were not applicable to the social 
sciences. Thus I found that natural scientists were quite pre- 
pared to accept as a "law" a rule that was only approxi- 
mately true or was true in only one case in a hundred, while 
the social scientists were reluctant to accept any rule that 

Scientific Method and the Social Sciences • 33 

was only approximate or even one that had no more than 
one exception in a hundred cases. 

After years of work in both areas of study, I concluded 
that the social sciences were different, in many important 
ways, from the natural sciences, but that the same scientific 
methods were applicable in both areas, and, indeed, that 
no very useful work could be done in either area except 
by scientific methods. In both areas the laws arising from 
the use of scientific methods will be idealized theories re- 
flecting observed phenomena only approximately, but these 
theories must be based on our observations; and any wide 
failure of approximation or any totally inapplicable cases 
must either be explained in terms of unconsidered outside 
factors, or the theories themselves must be changed to cover 
such variant observations. The "laws" of historical change 
described in this book seem to me to fit the observed cases 
at least as closely as most of the theories of natural science. 
Most of the laws I shall mention apply, without exception, 
or with only slight, explicable divergencies, to all the cases 
I know. They are then, it would seem to me, as worthy of 
consideration as the scientific laws on the formation of 

Before proceeding to examine any theories of historical 
change, we should review what we understand by the term 
"scientific method." In general, this method has three parts 
which we might call (1) gathering evidence, (2) making a 
hypothesis, and (3) testing the hypothesis. The first of these, 
"gathering evidence," refers to collecting all the observa- 
tions relevant to the topic being studied. The important 
point here is that we must have all the evidence, for, obvi- 
ously, omission of a few observations, or even one vital case, 

34- The Evolution of Civilizations 

might make a considerable change in our final conclusions. 
It is equally obvious, I hope, that we cannot judge that we 
have all the evidence or cannot know what observations are 
relevant to our subject unless we already have some kind of 
tentative hypothesis or theory about the nature of that sub- 
ject. In most cases a worker does have some such prelim- 
inary theory. This leads to two warnings. In the first place, 
the three parts of scientific methodology listed above were 
listed in order, not because a scientist performs them sep- 
arately in sequence, but simply because we must discuss 
them in an orderly fashion. And, in the second place, any 
theories, even those regarded as final conclusions at the end 
of all three parts of scientific method, remain tentative. As 
scientific methodology is practiced, all three parts are used 
together at all stages, and therefore no theory, however 
rigorously tested, is ever final, but remains at all times tenta- 
tive, subject to new observation and continued testing by 
such observation. No scientist ever believes that he has the 
final answer or the ultimate truth on anything. Rather he 
feels that science advances by a series of successive (and, he 
hopes, closer) approximations to the truth; and, since the 
truth is never finally reached, the work of scientists must 
indefinitely continue. Science, as one writer put it, is like a 
single light in darkness; as it grows brighter its shows more 
clearly the area of illumination and, simultaneously, length- 
ens the circle of surrounding darkness. 

Having gathered all the "relevant" evidence, the scientist 
may proceed to the second part of scientific methodology, 
making a hypothesis. In doing this, two rules must be fol- 
lowed: (a) the hypothesis must explain all the observations 
and (b) the hypothesis must be the simplest one that will 
explain them. These two rules might be summed up in the 

Scientific Method and the Social Sciences *35 

statement that a scientific hypothesis must be adequate and 
it must be simple. Once again let us confess that these two 
rules are idealistic rather than practicable, but they remain, 
nevertheless, the goals by which a scientist guides his ac- 

When we say that a hypothesis must be adequate, and 
thus must include all of the relevant observations, we are 
saying something simple. But carrying out this simple ad- 
monition is extremely difficult. It is quite true that every 
scientific hypothesis suffers from inadequate evidence — that 
is, it does not include in its explanation all the relevant 
evidence, and would be different if it did so. It is not easy to 
tear any event out of the context of the universe in which it 
occurred without detaching it from some factor that has in- 
fluenced it. This is difficult enough in the physical sciences. 
It is immensely more difficult in the social sciences. It is 
likely that in any society the factors influencing an event are 
so numerous that any effort to detach an event from its 
social context must inevitably do violence to it. The extreme 
specialization of most social studies today, concentrating 
attention on narrow fields and brief periods, is a great 
hindrance to our understanding of such special fields, al- 
though the fact is not so widely recognized as it should be, 
since any specialist's work is usually examined only by his 
fellow specialists who have the same biases and blind spots 
as he does himself. But a specialist from one area of study 
who examines the work being done in some other area can- 
not fail to notice how the overspecialized training of the 
experts in his new area of interest has handicapped their un- 
derstanding of that area. 

The second requirement of a scientific hypothesis — that it 
should be simple — is also more difficult to carry out in 

36- The Evolution of Civilizations 

practice than it is to write down in words. Essentially, it 
means that a hypothesis should explain the existing observa- 
tions by making the fewest assumptions and by inferring 
the simplest relationships. This is so vital that a hypothesis 
is scientific or fails to be scientific on this point alone. Yet in 
spite of its importance, this requirement of scientific method 
is frequently not recognized to be important by many active 
scientists. The requirement that a scientific hypothesis must 
be "simple" or, as it is sometimes expressed, "economical" 
does not arise merely from a scientist's desire to be simple. 
Nor does it arise from some esthetic urge, although this is 
not so remote from the problem as might seem at first 
glance. When a mathematician says of a mathematical 
demonstration that it is "beautiful," he means exactly what 
the word "beautiful" means to the rest of us, and this same 
element is undoubtedly significant in the formulation of 
theory by a scientist as well. 

The rule of simplicity or economy in scientific hypothesis 
has a number of corollaries. One of these, called "the uni- 
formity of nature," assumes that the whole universe is made 
of the same substances and obeys the same laws and, ac- 
cordingly, will behave in the same way under the same con- 
ditions. Such an assumption does not have to be proved 
— indeed, it could not be proved. It is made for two reasons. 
First, because it is simpler to assume that things are the 
same than it is to assume that they are different. And, 
second, while we cannot prove this assumption to be correct 
even if it is correct, we can, if it is not correct, show this by 
finding a single exceptional case. We could demonstrate the 
uniformity of nature only by comparing all parts of the uni- 
verse with all other parts, something that clearly could never 
be achieved. But we can assume this, because it is a simpler 

Scientific Method and the Social Sciences • 37 

hypothesis than its contrary; and, if it is wrong, we can show 
this error by producing one case of a substance or a physical 
law that is different in one place or time from other places or 
times. To speak briefly, we might say that scientific assump- 
tions cannot be proved but they can be refuted, and they 
must always be put in a form that will allow such refutation. 
Other examples or applications of the rule of uniformity 
of nature would be the scientific assumptions that "man is 
part of nature" or that "all men have the same potentiali- 
ties." Neither of these could be proved, because this would 
involve the impossible task of comparing all men with one 
another (including both past and future men) and with 
nonhuman nature, but these assumptions can be made un- 
der the rule of simplicity of scientific hypothesis or its 
corollary, the rule of the uniformity of nature. Thus they 
do not require proof. But, on the other hand, if these assump- 
tions are not correct, they could be disproved by one, or a 
few clear-cut cases of exceptions to the rule. 
Thus, in the final analysis, these rules about scientific 
hypotheses are not derived from any sense of economy or 
of esthetics, but rather arise from the nature of demonstra- 
tion and proof. The familiar judicial rule that a man is to 
be assumed innocent until he has been proved guilty is 
based on the same fundamental principles as these rules 
about scientific hypotheses, and, like these, rests ultimately 
on the nature of proof. We must assume that a man is inno- 
cent (not guilty) until we have proof of his guilt because it 
is always simpler to assume that things are not so than to 
assume that they are, and also because no man can prove 
the negative "not guilty" except by the impossible procedure 
of producing proof of innocence during every moment of 
his past life. (If he omits a moment, the charge of guilt could 

38- The Evolution of Civilizations 

then be focused on the period for which proof of innocence 
is unobtainable.) But by making the general and negative 
assumption of innocence for all men, we can disprove this 
for any single man by the much easier procedure of produc- 
ing evidence of guilt for a single time, place, and deed. Since 
it is true that a general negative cannot be demonstrated, 
we are entitled to make that general negative assumption 
under the rule of the simplicity of scientific hypothesis, and 
to demand refutation of such an assumption by specific 
positive proof. 

A familiar example of this method could be seen in the 
fact that we cannot be required to prove that ghosts and sea 
serpents and clairvoyance do not exist. Scientifically we as- 
sume that these things do not exist, and require no evidence 
to justify this assumption, while the burden of producing 
proofs must fall on anyone who says that such things do 

The rule of simplicity in scientific hypotheses is by no 
means something new. First formulated in the late Middle 
Ages, it was known as "Occam's razor" and was applied 
chiefly to logic. Later it was applied to the natural sciences. 
Most persons believe that Galileo and his contemporaries 
made their great contributions to science by refuting Aris- 
totle. This "refutation of Aristotle," or, more correctly, 
"refutation of Plato and of the Pythagorean rationalists," 
was only incidental to the much more significant achieve- 
ment of making the commonly accepted rules about the 
universe more scientific by applying to them Occam's razor. 
This was done by assuming that the heavenly bodies and 
terrestrial objects operate under the same laws (laws that 
were later enunciated by Newton). This application of 
Occam's razor to natural phenomena was a major step 

Scientific Method and the Social Sciences *39 

forward in making the study of nature scientific. Applica- 
tion of this rule to the social sciences (that is, to phenomena 
involving subjective factors) still remains to be done, and 
would provide a similar impetus to the advance of this area 
of human thinking. It has already been done in judicial pro- 
cedure (by such rules as the assumption of innocence and 
the needlessness of proving negatives), and the chief task 
in American law at the present time is to protect and, if 
necessary, extend the application of Occam's razor to 
judicial procedure. Many persons in recent years have felt 
uncomfortable over the demand that certain persons should 
"prove" that they are not "communists," but few realized 
that the unfairness of such a demand rests on the nature of 
scientific assumption and the nature of proof and, above all, 
on the violation of Occam's razor. 

These rules about the nature of scientific hypothesis are 
so important that science would perish if they were not ob- 
served. This has already happened in the past. During the 
period 600-400 B.C. in the Greek- speaking world, the 
Ionian scientists applied these rules about scientific hypoth- 
esis by assuming that the heavens and the earth were made 
of (he same substance and obeyed the same laws and that 
man was part of nature. The enemies of science about the 
year 400 B.C. made assumptions quite different from those 
of the Ionians; namely, that the heavens were made of a 
substance different from those on earth and, accordingly, 
obeyed different laws, and, furthermore, that man was not 
part of nature (since he was a spiritual being). They ac- 
cepted the older idea that the earth was made up of four 
elements (earth, water, air, fire), but assumed that the 
heavens were made of a quite different fifth element, quin- 
tessence. They admitted that the earth was changeable but 

40 • The Evolution of Civilizations 

insisted that the celestial areas were rigidly unchanging. 
They claimed that the laws of motion in the two were quite 
different, objects on the earth moving naturally in straight 
lines at decreasing velocity to their natural condition of rest, 
while objects in the heavens moved in perfect circles at con- 
stant speed as their natural condition. These nonscientific 
assumptions, made about 400 B.C. without proof and by 
violating the fundamental rules of scientific method, set up 
a nonscientific world view which could not be disproved. 
The Pythagorean rationalists were able to do this and to 
destroy science because the scientists of that day, like many 
scientists of today, had no clear idea of scientific method 
and were therefore in no position to defend it. Even today 
few scientists and perhaps even fewer nonscientists realize 
that science is a method and nothing else. Even in books 
pretending to be authoritative, we are told that science is a 
body of knowledge or that science is certain areas of study. 
It is neither of these. Science clearly could be a body of 
knowledge only if we were willing to use the name for 
something that is constantly changing. From week to week, 
even from day to day, the body of knowledge to which we 
attribute the name science is changing, the beliefs of one 
day being, sooner or later, abandoned for quite different 

Closely related to the erroneous idea that science is a 
body of knowledge is the equally erroneous idea that scien- 
tific theories are true. One example of this belief is the idea 
that such theories begin as hypotheses and somehow are 
"proved" and become "laws." There is no way in which 
any scientific theory could be proved, and as a result such 
theories always remain hypotheses. The fact that such 
theories "work" and permit us to manipulate and even 

Scientific Method and the Social Sciences 41 

transform the physical world is no proof that these theories 
are true. Many theories that were clearly untrue have 
"worked" and continue to work for long periods. The belief 
that the world is a flat surface did not prevent men from 
moving about on its surface successfully. The acceptance of 
"Aristotelian" beliefs about falling bodies did not keep 
people from dealing with such bodies, and doing so with 
considerable success. Men could have played baseball on a 
flat world under Aristotle's laws and still pitched curves 
and hit home runs with as much skill as they do today. 
Eventually, to be sure, erroneous theories will fail to work 
and their falseness will be revealed, but it may take a very 
long time for this to happen, especially if men continue to 
operate in the limited areas in which the erroneous theories 
were formulated. 

Thus scientific theories must be recognized as hypotheses 
and as subjective human creations no matter how long they 
remain unrefuted. Failure to recognize this helped to kill 
ancient science in the days of the Greeks. At that time the 
chief enemies of science were the rationalists. These men, 
with all the prestige of Pythagoras and Plato behind them, 
argued that the human senses are not dependable but are 
erroneous and misleading and that, accordingly, the truth 
must be sought without using the senses and observation, 
and by the use of reason and logic alone. The scientists of 
the day were trying to reduce the complexity of innumer- 
able observed qualities to the simplicity of quantitative 
differences of a few fundamental elements. This is, of 
course, exactly what scientists have always done, seeking to 
explain the subjective complexity of qualitative differences, 
such as temperature, color, texture, and hardness, in quan- 
titative terms. But in doing this they introduced a dichotomy 

42- The Evolution of Civilizations 

between "appearance" and "reality" that became one of the 
fundamental categories of ancient intellectual controversy. 
All things, as the scientists said, may be made up of different 
proportions of the four basic elements — earth, water, air, 
fire — but they certainly do not appear to be. The same 
problem arises in our own day when scientists tell us that 
the most solid piece of rock or metal is very largely made 
up of empty space between minute electrical charges. 
The Pythagoreans argued that if things are really not 
what they seem, our senses are at fault because they reveal 
to us the appearance (which is not true) rather than the 
reality (which is true). This being so, the senses are un- 
dependable and erroneous and should not be used by us to 
determine the nature of reality; instead we should use the 
same reason and logic that showed us that reality was not 
like the appearance of things. It was this recourse to rational 
processes independent of observation that led the ancient 
rationalists to assume the theories violating Occam's razor 
that became established as "Aristotelian" and dominated 
men's ideas of the universe until, almost two thousand 
years later, they were refuted by Galileo and others who 
reestablished observation and Occam's razor in scientific 

The third part of scientific method is testing the hypothe- 
sis. This can be done in three ways: (a) by checking back, 
(b) by foretelling new observations, and (c)by experimen- 
tation with controls. Of these the first two are simple 
enough. We check back by examining all the evidence used 
in formulating the hypothesis to make sure that the hypothe- 
sis can explain each observation. 

A second kind of test, which is much more convincing, is 
to use the hypothesis to foretell new observations. If a theory 

Scientific Method and the Social Sciences -43 

of the solar system allows us, as Newton's did, to predict 
the exact time and place for a future eclipse of the sun, or if 
the theory makes it possible for us to calculate the size and 
position of an unknown planet that is subsequently found 
through the telescope, we may regard our hypotheses as 
greatly strengthened. 

The third type of test of a hypothesis, experimentation 
with controls, is somewhat more complicated. If a man had 
a virus he believed to be the cause of some disease, he might 
test it by injecting some of it into the members of a group. 
Even if each person who had been injected came down with 
the disease, the experiment would not be a scientific one and 
would prove nothing. The persons injected could have been 
exposed to another common source of infection, and the 
injection might have had nothing to do with the disease. In 
order to have a scientific experiment, we must not inject 
every member of the group but only every other member, 
keeping the uninjected alternate members under identical 
conditions except for the fact that they have not been in- 
jected with the virus. The injected members we call the ex- 
perimental group; the uninjected persons we call the control 
group. If all other conditions are the same for both groups, 
and the injected experimental group contract the disease 
while the control group do not, we have fairly certain evi- 
dence that the virus causes the disease. Notice that the con- 
ditions of the control group and the experimental group are 
the same except for one factor that is different (the injec- 
tion ), a fact allowing us to attribute any difference in final 
result to the one factor that is different. 

The nature of experimentation with controls must be 
clearly understood, because it has frequently been distorted 
from ignorance or malice. A number of years ago a book 

44 The Evolution of Civilizations 

called Science Is a Sacred Cow made a malicious attack 
on science. In this work the method of experimental science 
was explained somewhat like this: on Monday I drink 
whiskey and water and get drunk; on Tuesday I drink gin 
and water and get drunk; on Wednesday I drink vodka and 
water and get drunk; on Thursday I think about this and 
decide that water makes me drunk, since this is the only 
common action I did every day. This perversion of scientific 
method is the exact opposite of a scientific experiment. In 
this performance we assumed that all conditions were differ- 
ent except one, and attributed cause to the one condition 
that was the same. In scientific method we establish all 
conditions the same except one, and attribute causation to 
the one factor that is different. In the perversion of scientific 
method we made an assumption that was not proved and 
probably could not be proved — that all conditions, except 
drinking water, were different — and then we tried to at- 
tribute causation to the one common factor. But there never 
could be only one factor the same, since, as an experimental 
animal, I was breathing air each day and doing a number 
of other common actions, including drinking alcohol. 
There would, perhaps, be no reason to pay attention to 
this perversion of science if it were an isolated case. But 
it is not an isolated case. Indeed, the book in question, 
Science Is a Sacred Cow, attracted undeserved attention and 
was publicized in America's most widely read picture maga- 
zine as a worthy book and a salutary effort to readjust the 
balance of America's idolatry of science. The magazine 
article in question reprinted extracts from the book, includ- 
ing the section on experimental method, and seriously pre- 
sented to millions of readers the experimental proof that 
water is an intoxicant as an example of scientific method. 

Scientific Method and the Social Sciences • 45 

Scientific method as we have presented it, consisting of 
observation, making hypotheses, and testing, is as applicable 
to the social sciences as it is to the natural sciences. To be 
sure, certain variations in applying it to the social sciences 
are necessary. But this is equally true of various parts of 
the natural sciences. These variations are most needed in 
testing hypotheses. Even in the natural sciences we fre- 
quently cannot use two of the three kinds of testing: we 
cannot use forecasting in the study of earthquakes or ge- 
ology in general; we cannot use controlled experiments 
in these fields or in astronomy. But these deficiencies do not 
prevent us from regarding geology or astronomy, seismology 
or meteorology as sciences. Nor should similar deficiencies, 
especially difficulty in forecasting and the impossibility of 
controlled experimentation, prevent us from applying the 
scientific method to the social sciences. 

The applicability of scientific method to the study of 
society has also been questioned on the ground that theories 
of the social sciences are too changeable. We are told that 
every generation must rewrite the history of the past or even 
that every individual must form his own picture of history. 
This may be true to some extent, but it is almost equally true 
of the natural sciences. Science is a method, not a body of 
knowledge or a picture of the world. The method remains 
largely unchanged, except for refinements, generation after 
generation, but the body of scientific knowledge resulting 
from the use of this method or the world picture it provides 
is changing from month to month and almost from day to 
day. The scientific picture of the universe today is quite 
different from that of even so recent a man as Einstein, and 
immensely different from those of Pasteur and Newton. And 
even at a given moment the body of knowledge possessed 

46- The Evolution of Civilizations 

by any single scientist or the world picture he has made from 
that knowledge is quite different from that possessed by 
other scientists. Yet such persons are all worthy to be called 
scientists if they use scientific method. The same is true in 
the social sciences. 

The one major difference between the natural sciences 
and the social sciences is the assumption, made in the 
former, that human thoughts cannot influence what hap- 
pens. This is an assumption, justified by the rule of sim- 
plicity, although few persons recognize that it is. There is a 
considerable body of evidence that human thoughts can 
influence the physical world, but this evidence, segregated 
into such fields as parapsychology or the psychic world, is 
not acceptable to the natural sciences. As a result, phe- 
nomena such as poltergeist manifestations (largely because 
they cannot be repeated on request) go unexplained and 
are generally ignored by the natural sciences. The latter 
continue to assume that physical processes are immune to 
spiritual influences. 

In the social sciences, on the other hand, it is perfectly 
clear that human thoughts can influence what happens; and, 
accordingly, the social scientist must face the more compli- 
cated situation created by this admission. Thus we assume 
that a rock, dropped from a high window, will fall even 
if everyone in the world expected it to rise or wanted it to 
rise. On the other hand, we are quite prepared to see the 
price of General Motors common stock rise if any large 
group of people expects it to rise. In a somewhat similar 
fashion, expectation of a war or desire for a war will make 
war more likely. 

This difference between the social sciences and the na- 
tural sciences makes it possible to draw up fairly definite 

Scientific Method and the Social Sciences «47 

conditions distinguishing between the two: the natural 
sciences are concerned with phenomena where we do not 
expect subjective factors to influence what happens, while 
the social sciences are concerned with phenomena where 
subjective factors may affect the outcome. 
In this book we are concerned with the social sciences 
thus defined, and particularly with the effort to apply a 
scientific method of observation, formulation of hypotheses, 
and testing to such phenomena. The enormous size of this 
field has made it advisable to curtail our attention to the 
process of social change, especially in civilizations. 

Man and Culture 

At certain seasons of the year great turtles come in 
from the sea to deposit their eggs on tropical beaches. 
They return to the sea immediately, leaving their eggs to 
hatch in due time from the heat of the sun. Eventually the 
little turtles emerge from their shells, push up through the 
warm sand, and head for the sea. There, guided by a sure 
instinct and without any need for instruction or learning, 
they take care of themselves, seeking food where it may be 
found and avoiding the dangers which are everywhere. 
Enough survive to maturity to maintain this species of turtle 
in existence. 

The ability of this species of turtle to survive depends 
upon two factors: (1) so many eggs are hatched each year 
that, even with heavy losses of the young, a sufficient num- 
ber reach maturity; (2) these turtles are able to grow up 
without learning or instruction because their nervous sys- 
tems are connected up and functioning as soon as they 
emerge from their shells. The newly hatched turtle is not 
so much an immature turtle as a small turtle. With the 
exception of his reproductive instincts, a newly hatched 
turtle is as fully equipped with a functioning muscular and 
nervous system as is an adult turtle. 

50- The Evolution of Civilizations 

Living things that can care for themselves in this way and 
for this reason are not unfamiliar. Insects do so and so too 
do such animals as chicks and ducklings. But man is con- 
structed on an entirely different plan. When a baby is born, 
it is quite incapable of taking care of itself, and remains 
relatively helpless for years. Indeed, it would seem that 
twenty or more years are necessary before a human being 
reaches maturity. 

The helpless condition of the newborn human arises 
from the fact that his neurological and muscular systems are 
largely undeveloped and uncoordinated. His nervous system 
in particular is like the telephone system of a great city in 
which almost none of the connections from phone to phone 
or from phone to switchboard are closed. Of course, this 
comparison is by no means perfect, for the human nervous 
system is much more complicated, much more adaptable, 
and much faster than any telephone system. The human 
brain alone, as a kind of central switchboard, has millions 
of neural connections. Other millions are distributed 
throughout the body. The way in which these are connected 
up, or even the fact that they come to be connected up at 
all, depends on what happens to the child, how he is trained, 
and how he grows. The things he is capable of becoming 
originally we can speak of as his potentialities; the things 
he does become, as the result of experience and training, we 
can speak of as actualities. The sum of his potentialities 
we call human nature, while the sum total of his actualities 
we call human personality. It is quite clear that human na- 
ture (potential qualities) is very much wider than human 
personality (actually developed qualities). Indeed, we might 
assume that everyone, at birth (or even at conception) has 
the potentiality for being aggressive or submissive, selfish or 

Man and Culture *5 1 

generous, cowardly or brave, masculine or feminine, pug- 
nacious or peaceful, violent or gentle, and so forth, and that 
which of these potential qualities becomes actual (or to 
what degree it does so) depends, very largely, on the way 
in which each person is trained or on the experiences he 
encounters as he grows up. The fact that there are societies 
or tribes in which almost everyone is aggressive (like the 
Apaches) and that there are other closely related tribes in 
which almost everyone is submissive (like the Zufii), and 
the fact that infants, taken from one such tribe and reared 
in the other, grow up to have in full measure the typical 
characteristics of their adopted tribe would seem to indicate 
both that all such people are potentially about the same at 
conception and that their personalities are largely a conse- 
quence of the way in which they are reared. If this is so, it is 
clear that the way in which people are brought up is very 
important. This is, of course, evident from the consideration 
already mentioned; namely, that humans are helpless at 
birth and must be cared for and trained during a period of 
many years. The way in which they are cared for and trained 
depends very largely on the personalities of the people 
whom they encounter as they are growing up, but these 
personalities again depend on the way in which these adults 
were reared. Thus there appear in any society certain pat- 
terns of action, of belief, and of thought that are passed on 
from generation to generation, always slightly different both 
from generation to generation and from person to person in 
any single generation, but possessing a recognizable pattern. 
This pattern depends not only on the way people are 
trained to act, to feel, and to think but also on the more con- 
crete manifestations of their social environment, such as 
the kind of clothes they wear, the kind of shelters in which 

52 • The Evolution of Civilizations 

they live, the kind of tools they have for making a living, the 
kind of food they eat and how they eat it, the kind of toys 
they have to amuse themselves, as well as the kind of 
weapons they have to defend themselves. All of these things, 
patterns of action, feeling, and thought, as well as concrete 
objects used in these activities, are known in the social 
sciences as culture. This culture forms the environment in 
which a child grows up as the natural environment sur- 
rounds the baby turtle as it grows up in the sea. Man is 
surrounded by natural environment, to be sure; but it is 
much more remote from him than from the turtle, for, in 
man's case, culture intervenes as a kind of insulation be- 
tween him and his natural environment. In fact, the sur- 
rounding environment of culture penetrates both into him 
as a person and into his natural environment, changing 
both. His neurological reactions in behavior, in feeling, and 
in thought are largely determined by his cultural environ- 
ment, and at the same time this cultural environment modi- 
fies his natural environment by such activities as heating his 
home, cooking his food, cutting down forests, draining 
swamps, killing off animals, and generally modifying the 
face of the earth. 

We have said that the individual's reactions in behavior, 
in feeling, and in thought (what we call his personality) are 
largely determined by his cultural environment. At the same 
time, his personality is part of the cultural environment of 
those people whom he meets. And, as already said, only by 
such relationships is his personality developed from his hu- 
man nature. All this makes a human being so different from 
a turtle that nothing very relevant to human behavior can 
be learned from the study of turtle behavior. With the turtle 
we are dealing with a twofold situation: the turtle and his 

Man and Culture *53 

environment. With the human being we are dealing with a 
threefold situation: the human being surrounded by his 
culture and both together surrounded by the natural en- 
vironment — and by other cultures. Where a turtle lays 
dozens of eggs and hopes that some turtles from those eggs 
can be carried to maturity by obedience to fairly rigid in- 
stincts, the human has almost no rigid instincts, and adapts 
his personality to his culture. The culture in turn must adapt 
itself to the natural environment. Thus, if the natural en- 
vironment changes, the turtle must change his nature, while 
man merely changes his culture (and thus his personality). 
But this beautifully flexible relationship requires such a 
long period of training and learning during which human 
nature becomes a human personality and the individual be- 
comes able to care for himself, that humans are dependent 
upon their parents for many years. Accordingly, humans 
have few offspring, and each offspring is very valuable, since 
the survival of the species does not depend (as with turtles) 
on the more or less accidental survival of a very few out of 
the many reproduced, but depends instead on the ability to 
bring up almost all who were born and to train them so 
that they can take care of themselves, have the intelligence 
to modify their culture (including their personalities) when 
it becomes necessary to adapt to the environment, and at the 
same time develop the capacity to use the freedom to change 
their behavior (which this whole situation assumes) in such 
a way that it will be beneficial to themselves and to the group 
on which they depend for the continuation of their culture. 
All this leads us to certain tentative assumptions about 
human nature, about the nature of culture, and about the 
nature of human society. In regard to human nature, it 
would seem that we have to deal with two things: (a) a 

54- The Evolution of Civilizations 

wide range of potentiality and (b) a drive to make these 
potentialities actual. The range of these potentialities seems 
to run a full gamut from the most concrete and material 
activities, such as eating or moving about, through a broad 
belt of emotional and social activities to a fairly broad range 
of spiritual and intellectual activities. It would be rash to 
say that this range of potentialities has very specific qualities 
or needs in it or that there are any intrinsic dividing lines 
separating one potentiality from another. A study of human 
personalities and human cultures would seem to indicate 
that these potentialities blur into one another, that each 
person has opposing (and even incompatible) extremes 
of each potential quality, and that there can be a good deal 
of substituting of one potential quality for another as these 
qualities develop into actual characteristics. Any divisions 
we may make in this gamut of human potentialities are 
probably arbitrary and imaginary. We might divide the 
range into two: physical and spiritual; or into three: phy- 
sical, emotional, and intellectual; or into four (a) material 
needs, such as food, clothing, shelter; (b) sex; (c) gregari- 
ous needs, such as companionship; and (d) psychic needs, 
such as a world outlook, psychological security, or the desire 
to know the "meaning" of things. We could, indeed, divide 
this gamut into forty or into four hundred divisions or levels, 
since the reality with which our words seek to deal is a 
subtle, continuous, and flexible range quite beyond our 
ability to grasp clearly or fully. This range of human po- 
tentialities will sometimes be divided in this book, for pur- 
poses of historical analysis, into six levels, as follows: (1) 
military, (2) political, (3) economic, (4) social, (5) re- 
ligious, (6) intellectual, although this division will always 
be made with the full realization that it could, with good 

Man and Culture »55 

justification, be made otherwise as five, seven, sixty, or six 
hundred levels. 

This range of human potentialities is also the range of 
human needs because of man's vital drive that impels him to 
seek to realize his potentialities. This drive is even more 
mysterious than the potentialities it seeks to realize. 
Throughout history men have given various names to this 
drive, and there have been endless disputes about its names 
and about its extent and nature. The Classical Greeks, like 
Aristotle, sought to ignore it by merely assuming that every- 
thing had a purpose and that everything by its very nature 
sought to achieve its purpose. This is generally known as a 
teleological explanation (from the Greek word teleos, mean- 
ing purpose or goal). In the Christian Middle Ages this 
teleological approach was somewhat modified by the belief 
that, while everything had a purpose, things were drawn to 
seek to fulfill these purposes by the love of God. About the 
year 1600 men began to place this drive inside men (driving 
them on) rather than outside (drawing them on) as before 
1600. Spinoza about 1670 called this drive the "soul." 
About 1818 Schopenhauer called it "will." About 1890 
Bergson called it "the vital urge," while at the same time 
Freud called it "sex." Throughout this later period many 
natural scientists called it "energy." Without getting into 
any controversy about the merits of these various terms, we 
can agree with them all that there does seem to be some 
force driving men to seek to realize their potentialities. 
Before going further to examine how these efforts produce 
both culture and societies, let us try to sum up our conclu- 
sions regarding the divisibility of the range of human po- 
tentialities by the following diagram in which the distance 
between the line AB and the line CD represents this range. 


The Evolution of Civilizations 

The various columns represent various ways in which it 
might be divided. This range as a whole we shall call "the 
dimension of abstraction": 








I Spiritual 

I needs 














When these potentialities of human nature are realized, 
they become the characteristics of human personality. This 
is very helpful, for we cannot directly observe or study hu- 
man nature, and are compelled to make assumptions as to 
what it must be like from our studies of human personality. 
Since the characteristics of human personality emerge from 
the potentialities of human nature as a result of experience 
and training, and since each person's experience and train- 
ing are different, each personality is different. At the same 
time, since each person in the same society is brought up 

Man and Culture -57 

in the same culture and thus tends to have similar experi- 
ences and similar training, most of the persons in a society 
tend to have a basic personality pattern, with similar general 
characteristics either emphasized or subdued. 
Not only is human personality formed by the social en- 
vironment; the social environment (or culture) is largely 
made up of the personalities it has created. In this way cul- 
ture is passed down from generation to generation, always 
somewhat changed but always largely the same. From this 
point of view culture is known as the social heritage, passing 
on from generation to generation by teaching and learning, 
most of it unconscious. 

When a child is first trying to walk, he may fall without 
actually hurting himself. What happens in the next few 
moments may contribute considerably to the formation of 
his future personality. If an adult swoops down on him, full 
of sympathetic sounds and commiseration, he may decide 
that he is hurt and begin to cry. This could easily become 
one of the earliest steps toward forming a personality that 
reacts to the unexpected with self-pity. On the other hand, 
such a fall might lead some neighboring adult to say: "Get 
up, Jimmy, and try again. You must be more careful and 
watch where you are going." This could easily be an early 
step toward self-responsibility and self-reliance. Frequently, 
after such a fall, the child, if ignored, will be frustrated and 
resentful. Struggling to his feet, he may strike out at the 
nearest person or at some inanimate object. Again the re- 
actions of surrounding adults depend upon the personality 
patterns of the culture, and serve to mold the developing 
personality of the child. There are societies where a frus- 
trated child who strikes at an innocent bystander might be 
admired: "Look at that spirit; isn't he the little man!" This 

58 • The Evolution of Civilizations 

serves to encourage the development of a culture based on 
personalities of irrational aggressions. If, on the other hand, 
a child who displays an early response of aggression to 
frustration is immediately stopped, has his hands slapped to 
discourage such a reaction, and is sternly warned: "You 
fell because you were not careful and did not watch what 
you were doing. Mrs. Jones had nothing to do with your 
fall, so don't you dare strike at her . . . ," in such a case the 
child's personality will be turned from aggression to self- 

Episodes such as this occur many times a day in every 
society. When they occur, the people involved react to them 
in accordance with their own personality structures. Few 
of the persons involved in such a situation stop to think that 
they are involved in a teaching situation and are helping to 
mold the society of the future by helping to mold the person- 
ality of one of its members. In highly integrated societies, 
such as most primitive tribes, the outcome of each such 
episode as this will be similar because the adults involved 
have similar personality structures and, as a consequence, 
the children growing up, who occasion such incidents, will 
experience similar reactions and will themselves develop 
similar personality structures, whatever these may be. In a 
more complex and more disintegrated society, such as our 
own, the personality structures of adults are already so 
varied that it is difficult to say how they would react to the 
event we have described. Thus quite different reactions 
might occur, and the children who are at the center of these 
episodes, by experiencing different reactions will grow up 
with different personalities, thus continuing and probably 
increasing the disintegration of the society's behavior pat- 
terns. There can be no doubt that we could have predicted 

Man and Culture -59 

the social response to any act of childish aggression a cen- 
tury or more ago with some assurance: the child would have 
been punished. But today it would be impossible to guess 
what might happen; and, just as the possible reactions have 
become more varied, so the personalities developed from 
such reactions have become more diverse and the society 
itself has become less integrated. 

The culture of a society consists of much more than the 
personalities of the people in the society. It consists of all 
the material things they use, such as the dwellings, tools, 
and clothing already mentioned. It consists of patterns of 
action, feeling, and thought. It consists of established social 
relationships between one person and another as well as 
between persons and objects. It consists of all kinds of fine, 
subtle, and changeable interrelationships between people 
and between goups, relationships and feelings that are 
sometimes obvious but are frequently unobserved, reactions 
that are so long established (and thus so "natural") that 
they are neither noticed nor questioned. Each individual in 
a society is a nexus where innumerable relationships of this 
character intersect. Taken as a whole, these innumerable 
relationships (many of them deeply imbedded in his neuro- 
logical system) form a status, which was slowly created as 
he grew up and will be abruptly destroyed when he dies. The 
gap created in the fabric of society by the death of an in- 
dividual is slowly closed as some of the ruptured relation- 
ships are healed over; many others are taken up by different 
persons; and the many social functions that formed the pre- 
vious status are taken over by a number of quite separate 

Culture is thus a very subtle and very complex thing. 
From our point of view it is the cushion between man's 

60 The Evolution of Civilizations 

purely animal nature and the natural environment. From 
another point of view it is the social heritage passed down 
from generation to generation. From another point of view 
it is a complex medley of personalities, material objects, 
patterns of behavior, subtle emotional relationships, ac- 
cepted intellectual ideas and intellectual assumptions, and 
customary individual actions. From any point of view it is 
constantly changing, and forms the chief subject of study in 
all the social sciences. 

This culture is both adaptive and persistent. It is adaptive 
because it is able to change, and it is persistent because it 
will not change without cause. The causes of such social 
change are both internal and external to the culture. They 
include the geographic, the biologic, and the cultural en- 
vironment. The geographic environment includes such 
things as terrain and climate. Obviously, culture must adapt 
itself to these; consequently, the Eskimos have quite a differ- 
ent culture from the Arabs of the desert or the jungle 
Negroes. And it is equally clear that as geographic condi- 
tions change, cultures must change too. When all of Europe 
was under glacial conditions, the cultures there must have 
been different from what they became when all of Europe 
was under thick forests (about 8000 B.C.) or under temper- 
ate conditions (about 1000 B.C.). The cultures in Europe 
adapted themselves to these changes. 

Similarly, culture adapts itself to changing biologic con- 
ditions. When the herring swarmed in the North Sea in the 
late Middle Ages or the buffalo swarmed on the North 
American plains in the early nineteenth century, the people 
living in these areas had cultures adapted to these condi- 
tions. But when the herring disappeared or the buffalo were 
largely exterminated, the people of northern Europe or the 

Man and Culture «61 

Indians of the Great Plains had to adapt their cultures to 
such changing biologic environment. 

In a similar fashion, but to a much greater degree, cul- 
tures must adapt themselves to changing cultural environ- 
ments. These latter include the culture itself as well as other 
different cultures. When a culture changes because one part 
of it must adapt itself to a different part of the same culture, 
we say that it is self-adaptive. Thus, when a culture gets a 
different weapon (as when the Indians on the Great Plains 
obtained the horse after 1543 or obtained guns after about 
1780), the religious, intellectual, social, economic, political, 
and military aspects of the culture are changed by this new 
acquisition. At the same time a culture must adapt itself to 
other cultures, as the culture of Western civilization has to 
adapt itself to the culture of Soviet Russia or as the people 
of Tahiti or the people of China had to adapt their cultures 
to the culture of Western civilization during the nineteenth 
century. When a culture is not able to adapt itself to changes 
in its geographic, biologic, or cultural environment, it may 
perish, just as the cultures of the American Indians or the 
culture of the ancient Carthaginians perished when these 
peoples were unable to adapt themselves to the impact of 
Western civilization or to that of Classical civilization. It is 
worth noting that when animals (like the dinosaurs) are 
incapable of adapting their physical structure to changes 
in the environment, the species perishes; but man (who has 
the insulation of culture between his physical structure and 
his environment) merely undergoes destruction of his cul- 
ture instead of destruction of his species when his culture 
cannot adapt itself to changes in the environment. 
It sometimes happens that a culture is unable to adapt it- 
self to changes in part of itself. For example, a change in 

62- The Evolution of Civilizations 

weapons (which is part of culture) may be so drastic (like 
the atom bomb) that the other parts of the same culture, 
such as the economic and political systems, cannot adapt 
themselves to this military change and the culture will perish. 
This means that cultural changes are not necessarily pro- 
gressive, but are frequently irrational, retrogressive, and 
destructive. A culture may even commit suicide. For ex- 
ample, at a remote period the culture of the Aztec people 
in Mexico changed on the religious level by the introduction 
of human sacrifices to one of their gods. The military level 
adapted itself to this religious change by changing its tactics 
from an effort to kill the enemy to an effort to capture the 
enemy (so that captives could be used as religious sacri- 
fices). This change injured the culture's ability to defend 
itself because the Aztecs no longer fought to defend them- 
selves or to kill their enemies, but fought to capture them for 
sacrifices. When the Spaniards under Hernando Cortez 
arrived in Mexico in 1519, the Aztec defense was much 
hampered by the fact that they were fighting to capture 
while the Spaniards were fighting to kill. 
Because culture is adaptive to itself, it is integrative; but, 
because it is also adaptive to diverse external influences as 
well as to the human drive to realize human potentialities, 
no culture ever becomes integrated. By "integrative" we 
mean that the different parts of a culture adapt themselves 
to one another and tend to become increasingly an inter- 
locking unified system in which each part fits snugly into all 
the surrounding parts. But this result is never reached, for, 
at the very moment that one part of culture is adapting itself 
to another part to become more closely fitted to it, it is 
becoming less adapted to some third part which is also 

Man and Culture «63 

changing under influences from some other source. Thus no 
culture ever becomes integrated. This is a good thing, be- 
cause a fully integrated culture would be rigid and would re- 
sist change so completely that it would become incapable of 
adapting itself to changes in its external environment on the 
one side and incapable of fulfilling man's drive to realize his 
potentialities on the other side. A fully integrated culture 
would be like the dinosaurs, which had to perish because 
they were no longer able to adapt themselves to changes in 
the external environment. Accordingly, culture is made up 
of loose-fitting parts that are only partially adapted to one 
another, to the environment, and to human needs, and are 
constantly changing in response to shifting pressures from 
these three directions. It is able to survive just because it is 
not rigidly integrated. 

So far, we have spoken about culture. This is the part of 
reality with which history is concerned, but it is only part 
of the whole picture that historians must examine. The rest 
of this picture is made up of the persons whose activities 
created the culture. It must always be remembered that cul- 
ture is the consequence of persons seeking to realize their 
potentialities sufficiently to satisfy their inner drives. With- 
out human beings there would be no culture. It is equally 
true that without culture there would be no humans (but 
only animals, in direct contact with their natural environ- 
ment). The whole combination of human beings plus their 
culture we call by various names such as societies, social 
groups, or even civilizations. These terms have different 
meanings that we shall examine in a moment. Before we 
do, we should sum up the stage we have reached in our 

64 • The Evolution of Civilizations 

We could write our last conclusion as an equation, thus: 

society = humans + culture 

The society is surrounded by its natural environment to 
which it adapts itself by changes in its culture. Thus the 
whole relationship might be represented by a diagram: 

The rigid lines between these concentric circles (like the 
plus mark in the equation just given) are misleading, be- 
cause culture is not rigidly separated from the human beings 
on the one hand and from the environment on the other. 
Rather it penetrates into both. In fact, much of culture is 
inside human beings because it takes the form of trained neu- 
rological reactions, developed muscles, emotional reactions, 
ideas both clear and vague, and the established patterns of 
acting that make the difference between human personality 
and human nature. Human personality is the part of culture 
that is inside human beings and can be observed. Also inside 
human beings, but beyond the limits of our observation, is 
human nature. Such human nature is made up of potentiali- 
ties and the drive (or drives) to express these. What these 
potentialities or drives are we cannot know from observation 

Man and Culture • 65 

but only from inferences based on our observations of per- 

In addition to personality (which is inside human be- 
ings), culture has manifestations outside human beings. 
This external culture consists of networks of human rela- 
tionships, of concrete tools and instruments (called arti- 
facts), and of symbols for communication or expression. 
In order to develop their potentialities so that human 
personalities emerge from latent human nature, human 
beings establish relationships with one another. As the child 
develops, these relationships are extended from such funda- 
mental relationships as those with mother and nurse to 
those with parents, siblings, and teachers, to those with 
friends, with the opposite sex, with business relations, with 
representatives of the government (like the police, the tax 
collector, and the draftboard), and with one's fellow citizens 
and fellow soldiers. All these relationships, as part of cul- 
ture, form groups of human beings. Of these groups there 
are many different kinds. We shall distinguish four different 
kinds at this point: (1) social groups, (2) societies, (3) 
producing societies, and (4) civilizations. All are made up 
of aggregates of human beings with their personalities and 
external culture. 

Groups, Societies, 
and Civilizations 

r I ''he social sciences are usually concerned with groups 
*- of persons rather than with individual persons. The 
behavior of individuals, being free, is unpredictable. There 
is more hope of success when we deal with the activities of 
aggregates of persons because in such aggregates the unpre- 
dictable behaviors of individuals tend to cancel each other 
out and become submerged in the behavior of the group as 
a whole. While the behavior of such a group may not be 
predictable, it is less free to change and can, accordingly, be 
extrapolated in a way that individual behavior does not 
allow. The same situation exists in the physical sciences, 
where we are quite unable to predict the behavior of any 
individual molecule or particle, but can, with assurance, 
predict the changes that take place in any large aggregate 
of molecules. These relationships, in the physical sciences, 
can be stated in the form of "laws" concerning the pressure, 
volume, size, state, and temperature of aggregates of mole- 

With aggregates of persons we can state no laws com- 
parable to those found in the physical sciences, although 
we can point out tendencies. For example, if an aggregate 

68 • The Evolution of Civilizations 

of persons in a stable group undergoes a rise in standards 
of living we can expect a tendency toward an increase in 
population for the group as a whole, even when we cannot 
say of any individual in the group that he will have more 
children or even any children at all. Moreover, we can study 
the nature and distribution of the increased supply of wealth 
to determine its effects on the numbers of children in various 
subgroups within the main group. But in the social sciences, 
where we must be satisfied with tendencies rather than with 
laws, we can analyze the working out of such influences and 
tendencies only if we have a fairly clear idea of the nature 
and structure of the social groupings involved. This is quite 
different from the natural sciences where laws about the be- 
havior of aggregates could be made long before men had 
any clear idea of how such aggregates were made up. 
The statement that we can enunciate rules of social ten- 
dencies only if we have fairly clear ideas about the nature 
of social groupings makes it necessary for us to confess that 
the nature of groups is one of the matters on which there 
has been wide disagreement in the past. In general men's 
ideas on this subject could be placed in three classes: (1) 
those who believed that social groups were merely collec- 
tions; (2) those who believed that social groups were 
organisms; and (3) those who denied that social groups 
were either collections or organisms but argued that they 
were sui generis, a particular kind of aggregate of their own. 
The distinctions between these three points of view on the 
nature of social aggregates could be expressed roughly as 
follows. A collection is no more than the sum of its parts, 
and the parts are interchangeable within the collection. An 
organism is more than the sum of its parts (since they have 
patterns of relationships), and the parts, being fitted to their 

Groups, Societies, and Civilizations • 69 

position and role in the whole, are not interchangeable. The 
third class, made up of those who maintain that a social 
group is sui generis, occupy a middle ground between the 
"collectionists" and the "organicists" since they say that the 
whole is more than the sum of its parts but that the parts 
(that is, the individuals in the group) are interchangeable 
in their functions and positions. 

A discussion such as this about the nature of social groups 
may seem to be a merely academic dispute of little practical 
significance, but, as a matter of fact, it has been profoundly 
significant throughout human history. Those who have seen 
human groups as organisms, from the ancient Greeks to 
Hitler, have derived from this point of view certain corol- 
laries about the relations of the individual to the group that 
have been destructive of individualism and of human liber- 
ties. For in an organism the parts exist for the sake of the 
whole and are subordinate to it; they must be sacrificed if 
necessary for the welfare of the whole. Thus Aristotle says 
that a man cannot live apart from the state, as an animal 
could or a god could, because a man cut off from the state 
is like a thumb cut off from a hand: it is no longer a thumb 
but merely looks like a thumb. In saying this he is using an 
organic analogy which explains the totalitarian character of 
the Greek polis or of the later Roman imperium. Both were 
as prepared to sacrifice the individual to the state as we 
would be to cut off a cancerous thumb in order to save the 
whole organism. 

On the other hand, the argument that a social group is 
only a collection and thus simply an aggregate of individuals 
with no established patterns of relationships and with no 
aims or purposes beyond those of the individuals who make 
it up is equally pernicious of human values. For a collection 

70- The Evolution of Civilizations 

can have no established traditions or any purposes of its 
own and can expect no spirit of sacrifice or of public service 
from its members; instead, it must expect its members to be 
as competitive in their relations with one another as they 
would be toward any member of an outside group. 
The middle ground that regards a social group as an ag- 
gregate of its own distinctive type avoids the difficulties 
both of totalitarian organicism and of the rampant indi- 
vidualism of the collectionists. Because of their belief that 
the whole has pattern, and thus is more than a mere aggrega- 
tion of individuals, holders of the middle ground are able to 
preserve social tradition and to encourage devotion to the 
whole as an entity with its own distinctive values; but by 
their insistence that individuals are interchangeable within 
the whole they are able to protect the ultimate value of the 
individual and to infer that the whole exists for the sake of 
the individual, and not the opposite, providing him with 
opportunities to develop his higher potentialities through 
social cooperation in a way that would not be possible in a 
mere collection of individuals. 

From centuries of argument on these matters there has 
begun to emerge a sufficient consensus for us to say that 
students of the social sciences today tend to avoid either of 
the extreme positions of organicism or individualism and 
tend to agree that social groups are aggregates of a special 
kind subject to their own rules and characteristics. Accord- 
ingly we must seek to define a social group and to show the 
various types of these that can exist. There are three basic 
types of such social aggregates: (1) social groups, (2) so- 
cieties, and (3) civilizations. 

A social group is an aggregate of persons who have had 
relationships with one another long enough for these to have 

Groups, Societies, and Civilizations »71 

become customary, and for them to come to regard them- 
selves as a unit with well defined limits. The essential thing 
about a group is that its members can say who is in it and 
who is not. The term covers such aggregates as a class in 
history, a football team, a fraternity, a university, a business 
concern, a parish or church, a political party or a state. All 
these groups come into existence gradually as relationships 
are established and mutual recognition grows. When a class 
in history or a football squad assembles for the first time, it 
is not a group, but simply an aggregate of persons, and the 
group comes into existence only gradually. In fact, it con- 
tinues to develop as long as it is of any social significance. 
A society is a group whose members have more relation- 
ships with one another than they do with outsiders. As a 
result, a society forms an integrative unity and is compre- 
hensible. It is the vehicle of the culture we were talking 
about before. A society has a culture because it is a unity, 
and it is a unity because its members have more relation- 
ships with one another than with outsiders. A group does 
not have any culture of its own; the culture of a group is the 
culture of the society in which the group is. By some stretch- 
ing of the use of words, the personalities of the members of 
a group might be regarded as the culture of the group; but 
culture consists of more than personalities (since it also 
includes external culture), and the personalities of any 
group have more relationships with people who are outside 
the group than with people inside the group, if for no other 
reason than the fact that these personalities developed by 
means of relationships with outsiders long before these per- 
sonalities joined the group. If this were not true, and the 
personalities of the members of the group had been de- 
veloped by means of relationships within the group, then 

72- The Evolution of Civilizations 

this aggregate of which we are speaking is a society and not 
a group. 

It is sometimes difficult for some people to distinguish 
between a group and a society because they fail to see the 
most fundamental relationships among people. It is fre- 
quently helpful to think of some of the varied relationships 
that can exist among people. If this is done, it becomes clear 
that the Zuni Indians or the Japanese about 1850 were 
societies, but that a history class, a football team, or a 
corporation is a group. The Zuni or the Japanese were 
societies because they had their religious, intellectual, social, 
economic, and political relations with other members of the 
same group. The members of a class, of a football team, or 
of a corporation have most of these relationships with out- 
siders. Members of such a group have their religious rela- 
tionships with the whole Christian tradition, while their 
intellectual relationships are with the whole tradition of 
Western culture; their social relationships are with outsiders 
to the group, such as parents, sweethearts, or friends; their 
economic relationships are with the whole capitalist eco- 
nomic world and beyond (for example, they drink coffee 
for breakfast); and their political relationships are with all 
their fellow citizens and even outside that. In such a wide- 
flung nexus of relationships, the relatively narrow range of 
mutual relationships possessed by members of the same 
class, the same team, or the same corporation shows clearly 
that these latter are groups and not societies. 
The real problem in distinguishing between groups and 
societies arises when we look at modern political units like 
the state or nation. Most states, such as Canada, France, 
Italy, Cuba, or the United States, are not societies but 
groups because their members' relationships with one an- 

Groups, Societies, and Civilizations • 73 

other are only political and social, while their religious, 
intellectual, and economic relationships are in a much wider 
context. The religious ideas of people in the countries men- 
tioned are expressed in terms of monotheism, the Christian 
ethical and doctrinal systems, the deity as a masculine be- 
ing located in the sky, and so forth. There is nothing spe- 
cifically Canadian, French, or American in these ideas. On 
the other hand, they are quite different from the religious 
ideas of peoples in a different society. These latter might be 
expressed in terms of a female deity residing within the 
earth, or of nonhuman shape, or demanding human sacri- 
fice, and so on. Similarly, the eating patterns of peoples in 
all the countries mentioned are very similar: they cook their 
food, eat bread made from wheat, drink coffee, prefer 
steaks, and are rather unlikely to be found eating raw 
blubber or fried locusts. Similarly, they all trace family 
descent through the father, practice monogamy, have pri- 
vate property, seek profits, accept the scientific tradition, use 
explosives as weapons, and so on. These similarities are so 
much more numerous and so much more important than the 
dissimilarities between these countries that the personality 
patterns and the general outlook on the universe that bind 
these people together into a single system of relationships 
make them have more relationships with one another across 
political frontiers than they do with members of any single 
group within such frontiers. The fact that Canadians have 
more relationships outside Canada than inside it means 
that Canada could not be understood or even described 
without using terms like Christian, scientific, industrial, 
monogamous, nationalism, Protestant, capitalism, parlia- 
ment, democracy, railroads, rifles, ballots, radioactivity, 
and such. None of these terms, nor the things which they 

74- The Evolution of Civilizations 

represent, is of Canadian origin nor can they be understood 
in purely Canadian terms. The need to use them in describ- 
ing Canada means that Canada can be understood only as 
part of the larger system from which these words (and the 
objects they represent) arise. This large system is, as we 
shall see, Western civilization; Canada can only be under- 
stood as a political group within Western culture. 
This distinction between groups and societies (with the 
former defined as an aggregate whose members have more 
relationships with outsiders than with one another) means 
that a society is a comprehensible unit, while a group is not 
a comprehensible unit. A group can be known but it cannot 
be comprehended, because comprehension involves knowl- 
edge of a major part of the relationships existing in an aggre- 
gate. Such knowledge is not possible within a group because 
many of the relationships of the members of a group go 
outside the group to members of the larger unit, the society, 
of which the group is a part. 

If a man from Mars, who knew nothing of our customs 
but who could, in some mysterious fashion, communicate 
with us, were suddenly to appear in the midst of a social 
group, among a football squad at practice or in the middle 
of a church service, or in a classroom during a lecture, he 
would find it utterly impossible to comprehend what was 
going on from explanations, no matter how detailed, of the 
interrelationships of the members of that group. His most 
obvious questions — "What are these persons doing?" "Why 
do they do it?" "What do they eat?" "Where does their 
clothing come from?" "What happens when one of them 
dies?" — or any others of an endless variety of questions 
could not be answered except by reference to persons, ob- 
jects, ideas, or customs outside the group itself. Indeed, it is 
a safe rule that no significant questions about anything in- 

Groups, Societies, and Civilizations • 75 

side a group can be answered except by reference to things 
outside the group. 

On the other hand, when a stranger suddenly arrives in a 
different society, as R. F. Fortune arrived among the Dobu, 
B. Malinowski among the Trobriand Islanders, Captain 
Cook among the Polynesians, Pizarro among the Incas, or 
Marco Polo among the Chinese, it is possible to obtain 
explanations and understanding of what is going on if there 
are communication and sufficient time. Thus, such a society 
is a comprehensible aggregate, while no social group is 
comprehensible, using that adjective in its real meaning as 
referring to something that can be "grasped together." 
Since a society is comprehensible, while a group is not, 
most political units (being groups) are not comprehensible 
units. Political units are comprehensible only when a single 
political unit covers the whole of a society. This is frequently 
not the case, although it is usually true of the more primitive 
societies organized in tribes. The Zuni, for example, like 
many of the other Indian tribes, were both a political unit 
and a society. Japan and China were, about 1850, compre- 
hensible political units because they were separate societies. 
In most advanced societies it will be found that the religious, 
intellectual, social, economic, and even military patterns are 
roughly coterminous with each other and with the outline of 
the society as a whole. But in such a society the political 
units usually cut across these other patterns. We can know 
a great deal about such political units, but we cannot under- 
stand them because understanding requires knowledge of a 
major portion of the patterns of relationships in society as a 

As we examine numerous societies like that of the Eski- 
mos, the Zuni Indians, the Chinese, the Hottentots, or our 
own Western civilization, we see that there are two different 

76 • The Evolution of Civilizations 

kinds of such societies: (a) parasitic societies and (b) pro- 
ducing societies. The former are those which live from 
hunting, fishing, or merely gleaning. By their economic ac- 
tivities they do not increase, but rather decrease, the amount 
of wealth in the world. The second kind of societies, produc- 
ing societies, live by agricultural and pastoral activities. By 
these activities they seek to increase the amount of wealth 
in the world. As we shall see later, the distinction between 
these two kinds of societies is of most fundamental impor- 
tance. Man was a parasite from his first appearance on the 
earth, perhaps as long as a million years ago. Only with the 
discovery of the techniques of agriculture and domestica- 
tion less than ten thousand years ago did it become possible 
for man to be a producer, and, even during the last ten 
thousand years, there have been more parasitic societies 
(like the Sioux or the Eskimos) than there have been pro- 
ducing societies (like the Zuni or the Chinese). 
If we concentrate our attention on the producing socie- 
ties that have existed during the last ten thousand years, we 
see again that there are at least two distinct kinds. There are 
simple producing societies like the Zuhi (with agriculture), 
or the Masai (with pastoral herds), and there are much 
more complex societies that we call "civilizations" (like the 
Chinese, the Aztecs, or ourselves). The distinction between 
a civilization and an ordinary producing society is not easy 
to draw, and it is too early in our discussion to seek to draw 
it at this time. However, it is clear that most of the civiliza- 
tions with which we are familiar have had both writing and 
city life. Accordingly, as a temporary definition, we might 
say that a civilization is a producing society that has writing 
and city life. 

We might sum up our definitions to this point by saying 
that aggregates of persons may be divided into (a) collec- 

Groups, Societies, and Civilizations 77 

tions, (b) groups, or (c) societies. The members of a col- 
lection, coming casually together in time and place, have no 
established relationships. The members of a group do have 
relationships sufficiently established to be able to identify 
who is or who is not a member of the group, but they have 
the major portion of their total relationships with persons 
who are not members of the group. A society, on the other 
hand, is made up of persons who have the major part of their 
relationships with one another. It may be either parasitic or 
producing, and if it is a producing society it may or may not 
be a civilization. These rather simple but very significant 
distinctions can be summed up in a table: 

Aggregates of Per s o n s 

A. Collections 

B. Groups 

C. Societies 

1. Parasitic societies 

2. Producing societies 

a. Simple tribes or bands 

b. Civilizations 

When we examine these three kinds of societies (para- 
sitic, producing, and civilizations), we see that there have 
been very many parasitic societies, a much smaller number 
of producing societies, and very few civilizations. As for the 
relative numbers of each, we might say that there have been 
hundreds of thousands of the first, at least thousands of the 
second, but not more than two dozen civilizations. Since our 
chief concern in this book is with our own society, which is 
a civilization, the rest of this book will be concerned with the 
nature of this particular kind of society only. 
Of the two dozen civilizations, all of which existed during 
the last ten thousand years, seven have been alive in recent 
years, while the rest, amounting to approximately seventeen 

78- The Evolution of Civilizations 

in number, lived and died long ago. All of them, both living 
and dead, can be divided into three groups depending upon 
the carbohydrate plant they produced as an energy food. 
There were three such foods: maize, rice, and grain (wheat 
and barley). In the maize group were two civilizations: 
(a) the Andean civilization, which began about 1500 B.C., 
culminated in the Inca Empire, and was destroyed by out- 
side invaders about a.d. 1600; ( b ) the Mesoamerican civili- 
zation, which began about 1000 B.C., culminated in the 
Aztec Empire, and was destroyed by similar invaders about 
A.D. 1550. Both of these civilizations were derived from a 
common source, a producing society which was not a civili- 
zation, probably situated in some hilly area in the northern 
part of South America. 

The "rice" group is somewhat misnamed since the chief 
carbohydrates which supported it in the earliest period and 
have continued to be used since were millet and wheat. This 
group has at least three (and perhaps as many as six) 
civilizations in it. Only an expert on the history of the Far 
East could speak with confidence on this subject. Since this 
is not one of our chief areas of interest, we shall over- 
simplify the situation by listing no more than three civiliza- 
tions. Of these the earliest, Sinic civilization, rose in the 
valley of the Yellow River after 2000 B.C., culminated in 
the Chin and Han empires after 250 B.C., and was largely 
disrupted by Ural-Altaic invaders after a.d. 400. From the 
debris of this Sinic civilization there emerged two other 
civilizations: (a) Chinese civilization, which began about 
a.d. 400, culminated in the Manchu Empire after 1644, 
and was destroyed by European intruders in the period 
1790-1930; and (b) Japanese civilization, which began 
about the time of Christ or a little earlier, culminated in the 

Groups, Societies, and Civilizations »79 

Tokugawa Empire after 1600, and may have been com- 
pletely disrupted by Western intruders in the century follow- 
ing 1853. 

The earliest civilizations are to be found neither in the 
maize group nor in the rice group, but in the much more 
important group of "grain civilizations." This group is more 
important not only because it contains the first civilizations 
to come into existence but also because it contains such a 
large number of civilizations, seventeen at least. The earliest 
civilizations were derived from a number of closely related 
producing societies that we shall call the Neolithic Garden 
cultures, or, less accurately, the Painted Pottery Peoples. 
The latter were the first peoples to have agriculture, and 
thus formed the earliest producing societies in history. At 
the risk of considerable oversimplification, we might say 
that these earliest agriculturalists appeared in the hilly 
terrain of western Asia, probably not far from Armenia, 
about nine thousand years ago. Because they knew nothing 
about replenishing the fertility of the soil, they practiced 
"shifting cultivation," moving to new fields when yields de- 
clined in their old fields. In consequence, they expanded 
steadily, reaching Denmark and Britain in the west and 
China in the east before 2000 B.C., that is to say, within 
five thousand years. In the course of this movement they 
found, in various alluvial river valleys, sites adapted to 
permanent large-scale settlement because, in such valleys, 
the annual flood replenished the fertility of the soil by de- 
positing a layer of fertile sediment; and, accordingly, the 
need for "shifting cultivation" ended and the possibility of 
permanent, eventually urban, settlements was offered. This 
possibility was realized in four alluvial valleys of the Old 
World, in Mesopotamia during the sixth millennium B.C., 

80- The Evolution of Civilizations 

in the valley of the Nile shortly afterward, in the valley of 
the Indus River early in the fourth millennium B.C., and 
in the Huang Ho Valley of China late in the third millen- 
nium B.C. The last of these has already been mentioned as 
the source of the Sinic civilization, which was the parent of 
the Chinese, Japanese, and probably other Far Eastern 

The first civilization, known to us as the Sumerian or 
Mesopotamian civilization, began after 6000 B.C., reached 
a peak of achievement about 1700 B.C., and ended in a 
series of empires of which the last was the Persian. That 
empire and the civilization of which it was the political 
aspect were destroyed by outside invaders, the Greeks un- 
der Alexander the Great, after the end of the fourth century. 
Parallel with this, a quite different civilization in the Nile 
Valley reached its peak about 2300 B.C., established its 
greatest geographic extent as the Egyptian Empire a mil- 
lennium later, and was destroyed by the same Greek in- 
vaders in the few generations following 330 B.C. 
While this was going on, other civilizations appeared, 
flourished, culminated in their respective empires, and per- 
ished at the hands of outside invaders in a strikingly similar 
process. In the Indus Valley the Indie civilization began 
about 3500 B.C., reached a peak of achievement about 2200 
B.C., culminated in a political empire that we might call the 
Harappa Empire, and was destroyed by the Aryan invaders 
who came into the Indian subcontinent from the northwest 
after 1700 B.C. From the wreckage of this culture, there was 
constructed a quite distinct civilization, which we may call 
Hindu. This reached a peak of achievement about 100 B.C., 
and culminated in a series of empires of which the last, 
called the Mogul Empire, was established early in the six- 

Groups, Societies, and Civilizations • 81 

teenth century. This empire and the civilization of which it 
formed a part were destroyed by European invaders in the 
centuries following 1700. From the wreckage of this Hindu 
civilization a new civilization seems to be coming into 
existence in our own time. 

Returning to the Nearer East we can see that a number 
of different civilizations appeared there, largely from Meso- 
potamian inspiration. On the island of Crete the earliest 
civilization outside an alluvial valley began to form toward 
the end of the fourth millennium B.C. It reached its peak in 
the Minoan period, about 1500 B.C., and ended with the 
Mycenaean Empire, destroyed by the Dorian invaders in 
the twelfth century B.C. 

In Anatolia, in the second millennium B.C., rose and fell 
the shortest-lived of all civilizations. Known as the Hittite 
civilization, this had its beginnings after 2000 B.C., reached 
its widest imperial extent about 1300, and perished a few 
generations later from the onslaughts of invading Iron Age 
intruders, cousins of the Dorians who were simultaneously 
destroying Cretan civilization. 

In the Levant, during the same period, there appeared, 
under Mesopotamian stimulus, a civilization we might call 
Canaanite. Beginning before 2000 B.C., it reached its great- 
est extent, from the Red Sea to Spain, about 900 B.C., and 
ended with that empire which, called Punic by the Romans 
and Carthaginian by us, was known to themselves, more 
accurately, as Canaanite. It perished from Roman invasion 
before 100 B.C. 

From the wreckage of Cretan civilization there began to 
grow, about 1000 B.C., a new civilization with which we are 
well acquainted. Known as Classical civilization, or Medi- 
terranean civilization from the sea whose shores it occupied, 

82- The Evolution of Civilizations 

it reached its greatest peak in the century divided at 400 
B.C., and finally culminated in the Roman Empire. It was 
destroyed, as is generally known, by the Germanic "bar- 
barian invaders" in the fifth century of our era. From its 
wreckage emerged three civilizations: (a) Western civiliza- 
tion, which may culminate in an American empire; (b) 
Orthodox civilization, which seems to be culminating in the 
Soviet empire; and (c) Islamic civilization, which did cul- 
minate in the Ottoman Empire, and was disrupted by in- 
truders from Western civilization in the first half of the 
present century. 

In this enumeration we have named sixteen civilizations. 
Of these, two existed in the New World, three in the Far 
East, one in Africa, and the others in the rest of Eurasia. 
With careful study it would be possible to distinguish ap- 
proximately eight more civilizations divided about equally 
between the Near East and the Far East. We refrain from 
attempting to do this because the facts are not clear and any 
conclusions would be disputable. The Near East and the 
Far East in the history of civilizations are like complex 
masses of quartz from which numerous crystals protrude 
in various directions. The number of crystals in the mass 
might be disputed, and there would surely be disagreement 
about which portions of the main mass of quartz should be 
attributed to each crystal. It is possible that detailed study 
of the problem, like microscopic examination of the quartz, 
might help to solve this problem, but for our purpose the 
task is not worth the effort. Just as it is possible for adjacent 
molecules in the quartz mass to be oriented in diverse direc- 
tions so that they should, perhaps, be attributed to different 
crystals, so it is possible (and indeed is well established) 
that individual persons living next to each other in, let us 
say, Palestine in the thirteenth century B.C., should from 

Groups, Societies, and Civilizations 


their personal orientations be attributed to Hittite civiliza- 
tion or to Egyptian civilization or to Canaanite civilization 
or even to Mesopotamian civilization. Such attribution of 
individuals to civilizations is no matter of any historical 
significance and need not concern us here. Nor need we 
worry, at this time, about the eight or more additional 
civilizations that have existed at various times in Ethiopia, 
Cambodia, Indonesia, or Tibet. Let us study the nature of 
civilizations, as a scientist would study the nature of crystals, 
by examining the more clearly demarked and less contro- 
versial examples of our subject. 

Leaving aside for the moment the two civilizations found 
in the New World, we can arrange the fourteen Old World 
civilizations into a pattern to show their chief cultural 
connections. Many other connections, which we do not 
show on the diagram, exist in fact and can be inserted by 
the cognizant reader. It is to be noted that four of the early 
civilizations are cultural descendants of the Neolithic Gar- 
den cultures, which were not themselves civilizations (since 
they lacked both writing and city life): 

[Neolithic Garden Cultures] 
(not civilizations) 

I M 



"HIHODOX (Rusiian 



I\PIA\? ? 


The Evolution of Civilizations 

In this diagram the family tree of our own Western 
civilization (a lineage involving three generations between 
the Neolithic Garden cultures and ourselves) has been 
marked with a double line. The meaning behind these lines 
and the other cultural connections shown on the diagram 
will be indicated later. 

For later reference the following table gives the name, 
approximate dates, the name of the culminating empire, and 
the outside intruders who terminated its existence for the 
sixteen civilizations mentioned: 






6000-300 B.C. 




5500-300 B.C. 




3500-1500 B.C. 




3000-1100 B.C. 




2000b.c-a.d. 400 




1900-1000 B.C. 




2200-100 B.C. 




1100 B.C-A.D. 500 




IOOOb.c-a.d. 1550 




1500 b.c-a.d. 1600 




1500 b.c-a.d. 1900 












100 B.C-A.D. 1950 (?) 











Historical Analysis 

V\ Te have already mentioned our belief that civilization 
" * is an object that can be studied in a scientific way just 
as a quartz crystal can be studied. In such a study we must, 
like the student of crystals, examine in a comparative way a 
large number of examples — even, ideally, all the examples 
available. But it is obvious that a civilization is a much more 
complicated object than a crystal. Let us be explicit about 
that word "complicated." A civilization is complicated, in 
the first place, because it is dynamic; that is, it is constantly 
changing in the passage of time, until it has perished. Fur- 
thermore, a civilization is part of the social sciences; that is, 
it contains subjective elements, and these are usually the 
more important elements in the culture. Accordingly, in a 
civilization, unlike a crystal, what people think or feel can 
influence what exists, changing the object completely in the 
process. In the third place, many aspects of a civilization 
are continua, existing in such subtle gradations and in such 
varied degrees of abstractness that the divisions we make in 
it, in the course of our analysis, and the words we use as 
symbols to refer to our analytical divisions reflect only very 
roughly the situation that exists in the reality itself. All three 

86' The Evolution of Civilizations 

of these difficulties are important, but the third, which is 
frequently ignored in discussions of these matters, requires a 
little further examination — for that reason, at least. 
Much, if not all, of the physical world consists of con- 
tinua. To say this is equivalent to saying that much of the 
physical world is irrational. It exists and it operates, but it 
does these things in ways that cannot be grasped by our 
conscious rational mental processes. This can be seen most 
easily if we consider first a few examples of continua in the 
physical world. 

How many colors are there in a rainbow? Some answer 
three — red, yellow, blue. Others answer six — red, orange, 
yellow, green, blue, violet. When I was a child in school, for 
some unknown reason, we were told that there were seven 
colors, the teacher inserting "indigo" between blue and 
violet. The proper answer, of course, is that the number of 
colors in the rainbow is infinite. This in itself is something 
we cannot grasp in any rational way. But let us consider 
what it means. 

In the first place it means that there is, in the rainbow, no 
real line of division between any two colors. If we wish to 
draw a line we may do so, but we must recognize that such a 
line is imaginary — it may exist in our minds, but it does not 
exist in the rainbow itself. 

Moreover, any line that we draw is arbitrary, in the sense 
that it could have been drawn with just as much justification 
somewhere else, perhaps only a hairbreadth away. If we 
draw a line between red and orange and another between 
orange and yellow, we may call the gamut between those 
two lines orange, but, as a matter of fact, the color is quite 
different on either edge of that gamut. We may decide that 
orange is a narrower range than the gamut between our two 

Historical Analysis *87 

lines and, accordingly, slice off the margins of the orange 
gamut, calling the severed margin on one side yellow-orange 
and the severed margin on the other side red-orange. But 
once again the color is not the same across any of these three 
ranges. In fact, it is impossible to cut off any gamut in a 
rainbow, no matter how narrow we make it, in which the 
color is the same across the width of the gamut. We can 
move no distance, however infinite simally small it may be, 
across the rainbow without a change in color. This means 
that the number of colors in the rainbow is infinite. But it 
also means that the number of colors in any portion of the 
rainbow is infinite. That is, there are as many shades of 
orange as there are colors in the whole rainbow, since both 
are infinite. Now, this is a truth that we cannot understand 
rationally. It seems contrary to logic and reason that we 
could add all the existing shades of red and yellow to all the 
existing varieties of orange without increasing the number 
of color varieties we have. The reason is not so much that 
infinity added to infinity gives infinity as that there are no 
different varieties of colors at all, because there are, in fact, 
no dividing lines in the rainbow itself. When we use the 
plural terms "colors" and "shades" in reference to a rainbow, 
we are implying that there are different colors and accord- 
ingly that there are divisions in the rainbow somehow sepa- 
rating one shade from another and thus entitling us to speak 
of these in the plural. Since there are no such lines of 
separation, we would be more accurate if we spoke of the 
rainbow in the singular as "a continuum of color." But, of 
course, we could not do this consistently because it would 
make it impossible to think about or to talk about the colors 
of any objects. Since the continuum changes across its 
range, it is distinctly different in color from one portion to 

88 • The Evolution of Civilizations 

another, just as dresses, flowers, or neckties are different in 
color from one another. If we are going to talk about these 
very real differences, we must have different words for the 
different colors involved. Thus we must give different color 
terms to different portions of the rainbow's gamut. The 
important truth to remember is that, while the differences 
beween colors are real enough, there are no real divisions 
between colors: these are arbitrary and imaginary. 
As is well known, the gamut of radiations of visible light 
that we call the rainbow is not an entity in itself but is an 
arbitrary and imaginary portion cut out of a much wider 
gamut of electromagnetic radiations. The variety of colors 
in the rainbow arises from the fact that the radiations of 
visible light come at us in wave lengths of different fre- 
quency. As the wave lengths of these radiant forms of energy 
get smaller (and thus their frequency gets larger), we ob- 
serve this difference as a shift in color toward the blue end 
of the visible spectrum; as the wave lengths get longer (and 
the frequency less), we observe a color shift toward the red 
end of the spectrum. If this shift of wave length continues, 
the radiation may pass beyond the range to which our eyes 
are sensitive. Beyond the red we can notice these radiations 
as heat (infrared); beyond the violet we might have diffi- 
culty noticing the radiations directly, but their consequence 
would soon appear as a kind of sunburn on our skin. Once 
again there is no dividing line between the visible gamut of 
radiations and the ultraviolet on one side and the infrared on 
the other side. Some persons can "see" further into these 
than others can, and other forms of living creatures can 
"see" further into one or the other range than any human 
could. Bees, for example, are fully sensitive to ultraviolet 

Historical Analysis -89 

radiations, while humans are generally so insensitive to these 
that they consider glass windows, which cut off most ultra- 
violet, as being fully transparent. 

The gamut of radiant energy is much wider than the three 
subgamuts we have mentioned. Beyond the invisible ultra- 
violet are other radiations of even shorter wave length, 
including soft X rays, hard X rays, and finally the very high- 
frequency gamma waves released by nuclear explosions. 
Going the other way in the radiation range, we find that 
there are radiations of increasing wave length beyond the 
infrared which we call heat. These radiations of lower fre- 
quency and longer wave length include those used to carry 
our radio and television broadcasts. While we sit here read- 
ing, quite unaware of their passage, these radiations are 
going through our bodies. They are different from the 
visible light that allows us to see to read only in the wave 
lengths and energy content of the radiations. 
This great gamut or range of energy radiations, from the 
shortest gamma waves at one end to the longest broadcast 
waves at the other end, forms a continuum. The difference 
between a deadly gamma radiation and an enjoyable tele- 
vision broadcast, like the difference between red and blue, is 
a very real difference, but it is only a difference of wave 
length (and thus a difference of distance) and not a differ- 
ence of kind. Accordingly, no real lines of demarcation exist 
in the gamut itself, and the whole range forms a single 

The quality of being a continuum that exists in the range 
of electromagnetic radiations is not a quality that has any- 
thing to do with energy or with radiations, but is true simply 
because these radiations exist in space and differ from one 

90- The Evolution of Civilizations 

another because of space distinctions, namely, their wave 
lengths. This spectrum is a continuum, and therefore irra- 
tional, because space is a continuum, and therefore irra- 

The irrationality of space sounds a little strange to most 
of us because we are so familiar with space that we rarely 
stop to think that we do not really understand it. But the 
irrational quality of space (which arises from the fact that 
space is infinitely divisible) is one of the early discoveries 
of ancient intellectual history. By 2000 B.C. the Babylonians 
were familiar with the fact that the square of the hypotenuse 
of a right-angle triangle is equal to the sum of the squares 
of the other two sides. Introduced to the Greeks in a general- 
ized form by Pythagoras before 500 B.C., this statement 
came to be called the "Pythagorean theorem." Unfortu- 
nately, Pythagoras also taught that reality was rational and 
that the truth can be found by the use of reason and logic 
alone, without any need for observation through the senses, 
which would merely serve to confuse us. This rationalist 
method for discovering the nature of reality was accepted 
by Socrates and Plato (and, in his earlier period, by Aris- 
totle) and led to the death of ancient science by contributing 
to a denigration of observation, testing of hypotheses, and 
experiment. It is one of the great ironies of history that 
thinkers like Pythagoras and Plato helped to kill ancient 
science by propagating the belief that observation was not 
necessary since reality was rational, and therefore its nature 
could be found by the use of reason and logic alone, long 
after a pupil of Pythagoras, Hippasus of Metapontium, had 
used the Pythagorean theorem to demonstrate that space 
(and thus reality) is irrational. 
The demonstration of the irrationality of space arose from 

Historical Analysis -9 1 

the proof that the diagonal of a square is incommensurable 
with its side. We would say that, if the side of a square is one 
unit long, its diagonal, by the Pythagorean theorem, is \/~2 
units long. And the square root of 2, we say, is an irrational 
number. But few of us really know what we mean by the 
word "irrational" in this sense. There are three ways of 
looking at it, each a slightly different way of looking at a 
quite irrational situation. We sometimes say that /"2~ is an 
endless decimal which begins with 1.41421 . . . and con- 
tinues forever in an infinite series of digits which never ends 
and never repeats itself. Or we could say that / 2 is a num- 
ber which cannot be expressed as a fraction — that is, as a 
ratio between two rational numbers. But both of these state- 
ments are simply alternative ways of talking about the 
utterly irrational fact that there is no common unit of dis- 
tance, no matter how small we make it, which will go into the 
side of a square a certain number of times and will also go 
into the diagonal of the square a round number of times 
without anything left over. Rationally we would think that 
if we took as a unit of measurement a distance which was 
infinitely small — like one-sextillionth of a cat's whisker or 
even one-sextillionth of that or however small a unit was 
needed — that we could eventually find a unit so small that it 
would go evenly into both the side and the diagonal. But 
the fact is that there is no unit, however small, which will go 
evenly into both distances, so that there is no common unit 
between them, and we must say that they are incommensur- 
able. But this is not a situation that is rationally compre- 
hensible to our conscious reasoning powers, and it is quite 
nonlogical. But it is true. 

This quality of irrationality of space is not something 
exceptional, either in space or in other aspects of reality. 

92- The Evolution of Civilizations 

The radius of a circle is similarly incommensurable with its 
circumference; the irrational relationship between the two 
distances is signified by the ratio we call w. This quality of 
irrationality rests on the fact that space is infinitely divisible; 
no matter how close together we make two points, the num- 
ber of points between them remains infinite. The infinite 
colors of the rainbow, like the incommensurability of a 
square and its diagonal or of a circle and its radius, are 
simply applications of this irrational quality of space. 
A similar irrational quality is to be found in time. We 
usually think of time as a succession of intervals. It is really 
a continuous flow, and any intervals we may choose to put 
into it, be they seconds, hours, or centuries, are arbitrary 
and imaginary. And in consequence, any conclusions we 
derive or any inferences we may draw from such intervals 
may be mistaken. We have twenty-four hours in the day as 
a purely conventional arrangement going back to our early 
ancestors in the Neolithic Garden cultures who had a num- 
ber system based on twelve and passed on to us, as relics 
of that system, such arrangements as twelve eggs in a dozen, 
twelve inches in a foot, twelve pennies in a shilling, twenty- 
four parts in a carat, twelve ounces in a pound of gold, 
twelve deities on Mount Olympus, and many other odd 
facts of which one of the most pervasive today is that teen- 
age begins with thirteen. From the Neolithic belief that day 
or night should each have twelve parts we derived our 
twenty-four-hour day, but since these divisions are arbitrary 
and imaginary, we could with equal justification have a day 
of ten hours or of twenty-three or twenty-five hours. 
Most of us are familiar with the paradoxes of Zeno, 
especially with the one about a race between Achilles and a 
tortoise. Zeno argued that if the tortoise got a head start, 
Achilles could never catch up with him even if he could run 

Historical Analysis *93 

much faster. Zeno felt that if the tortoise was a certain 
distance ahead when Achilles started, the tortoise would 
move forward a little farther while Achilles was covering 
the handicap distance and would, thus, still be ahead when 
Achilles finished the handicap distance. Accordingly, Achil- 
les must keep on running to overcome the new increment, 
but by the time he had made up that increment the tortoise 
would have moved forward a new amount and would still 
be slightly ahead. According to Zeno, this process would 
continue forever, the tortoise advancing a decreasingly small 
amount while Achilles was making up the tortoise's previous 
increment. A mathematician might say that the distance 
between the two would approach zero as a limit but would 
reach that limit only after an infinite number of intervals 
(either of time or of distance) and that Achilles would, 
accordingly, not catch up in any finite number of inter- 

The explanation of this paradox of Zeno's rests on the 
fact that the space and time through which the contestants 
are running are both continua, but Zeno, by treating them as 
if they were a succession of intervals, introduced an untrue 
condition, and from this contrary-to-fact assumption (that 
lime or space exists as a sequence of intervals) he derived 
a contrary-to-fact conclusion (that Achilles can never catch 

Such paradoxes are good examples of the methodological 
rule that logic and rationality do not apply to continua. As 
we shall show later, this is one of the basic rules of historical 
method (although, it must be confessed, few historians give 
it much thought). 

Space and time are not the only continua. Another 
familiar example is the system of real numbers. Since this 
is a continuum, we can state a rule: no two numbers can be 

94 > The Evolution of Civilizations 

placed so close together that there is not an infinite number 
of numbers between them. For example, between 3 and 4 
are an infinite number of numbers. One of these is m As we 
have said, tt is irrational, and, accordingly, although it is a 
very exact number we cannot write it with the ordinary ten 
symbols used in writing numbers. If we say that tt is 3.14, 
we do not refer to a single number but are really saying that 
77 is one of the infinite number of numbers in the gamut from 
3.135 to 3.145. In that gamut we could indicate that -was 
in a much narrower gamut (which still contains an infinite 
number of numbers) by writing its value as 3.141592. This 
refers to the infinite number of numbers in the gamut of 
numbers ranging from 3.1415915 to 3.1415925. Since the 
value of tt is known to over a thousand decimal places, we 
can define the gamut of numbers within which - lies more 
and more narrowly simply by carrying the numerical ex- 
pression for tt to more decimal places. But each gamut, no 
matter how narrow it gets, refers to an infinite number of 
numbers, because the system of real numbers is a continuum. 
To those who are not familiar with mathematics, all of 
this discussion of / 2 and of tt may seem very strange, un- 
real, and unapplicable to anything with which they are 
concerned. I hope to show that the remarks I have just made 
about numbers are applicable not only to statements we all 
make about many familiar things but also to history. 
A moment's thought will show that any statement about 
any continuum is just the same kind of statement as that 
which we have just made about tt. Just as any value we may 
give to - refers to a gamut containing an infinite number of 
numbers and this gamut can be made narrower by carrying 
our statement of the value of tt to more decimal places, so 
any statement about any color refers to a gamut that con- 

Historical Analysis • 95 

tains an infinite number of colors. Thus the word "orange" 
does not refer to a single color (any more than 3.14 refers 
to a single number), but rather refers to the gamut of colors 
between red and yellow. If we narrow this gamut by speak- 
ing of "yellow-orange," we still are referring to an infinite 
number of colors. And we could make the gamut narrower 
by referring to "orange yellow-orange" or to "yellow yellow- 
orange," thus bisecting the previous gamut. This process 
could be continued indefinitely, just as the value of tt can be 
carried to more decimal places. The value, however, of 
carrying either very far is not large. 

We have been talking about rainbows, numbers, and 
space-time in order to establish what we mean by a con- 
tinuum. Now we can define the term in the sense that we 
shall use it in discussing history. "A continuum is a hetero- 
geneous unity each point of which differs from all the sur- 
rounding points but differs from them by such subtle 
gradations in any one respect that no boundaries exist in 
the unity itself, and it can be divided into parts only by 
imaginary and arbitrary boundaries." 

We might add that some continua are perfect while others 
are highly imperfect, the distinction being that a perfect 
continuum has an infinite number of gradations between any 
two boundaries drawn in it, no matter how closely together 
they are drawn, while an imperfect continuum has a finite 
number of gradations between at least some of the boun- 
daries drawn in the continuum. For example, the gamut of 
variations of light intensity during any twenty-four-hour 
period is a perfect continuum. But the "races" of mankind, 
however defined, are an imperfect continuum. For the vari- 
antions in any standard we set as a criterion for race can be 
no more numerous than the number of individual human 

96' The Evolution of Civilizations 

persons on the earth (that is, no more than a few billion 
variations) instead of the infinite number we expect to find 
in a perfect continuum. If, for example, we set color of skin 
as the criterion of "race," and we were to arrange the human 
beings on the globe in some magical fashion in a long line 
with the blackest black man at one end and, next to him, the 
second blackest man, and so on, in ascending order of light 
reflection from their skin surfaces, until we passed through 
all the blacks, browns, reds, yellows, and whites to end up 
with the whitest white man on the globe, possibly an albino 
Norwegian — if we were to do this, I feel confident there 
would be no place on that long line where any two adjacent 
persons would have any difference in skin color sufficient to 
be distinguished by any normal physical process. We might 
then decide that men, based on skin color, form a single 
race. Or, if we insist on having more than one race, we 
might simply divide the line at its midpoint and settle for 
two races — the "lights" and the "darks." But however many 
races we decided upon, there would be no discernible dif- 
ference in skin color between any two adjacent persons 
between whom we drew a boundary line. Nevertheless, in 
the final analysis, this range of skin color would represent 
an imperfect continuum, because the variation of skin color 
between any two boundary lines or in the range of mankind 
as a whole would be numerable and not infinite. 
We might, on the other hand, arrange mankind in a line 
on the basis of height. In that case we would have several 
billion variations over a total height difference of no more 
than seven or eight feet, giving an average difference be- 
tween any two adjacent persons of no more than one fifty- 
millionth of an inch, a difference which is, once again, too 
slight to be discernible by any normal procedures and is, 

Historical Analysis *97 

indeed, considerably less than the normal increase and de- 
crease of any one person's height caused by rest and exercise 
during a day. Indeed, if we tried to arrange the persons of 
the world in order by height we would find the daily changes 
in individual height to be relatively so much greater than the 
average height differences between individuals that persons 
would be compelled, from their constantly changing heights, 
to change their positions in the line by hundreds of thous- 
ands and even millions of persons at relatively short inter- 
vals. If we were to use such a criterion as height as a measure 
of race, we could do so only so long as people were locally 
segregated into groups of obviously different average 
heights. As soon as people began to move about or mix 
socially, the classification would break down. And we could 
never classify racially, on this basis, any isolated individual. 
We deal with continua rationally either by dividing them 
into arbitrary intervals to which we give names, or by giving 
names to the two ends of the continuum and using these 
terms as if the middle ground did not exist at all. This last 
method is called "polarizing a continuum," and is frequently 
done even when the greatest frequency of occurrence is in 
the middle range. When the telephone rings in the sorority 
house because someone wants a "blind date," the sisters at 
once ask the vital question, "Is he tall or short?" They ask 
this question even though it is perfectly obvious that the 
majority of men are neither tall nor short but are nearer the 
middle range. Such polarization of continua is so common 
and so familiar that we come, frequently, to accept our 
categories as real instead of being arbitrary and imaginary, 
as they usually are. An accident report asks, "Day or 
night?" although accidents are most frequent when it is 
neiher day nor night, but dusk. Many questionnaires pol- 

98 - The Evolution of Civilizations 

arize continua by asking us to check: "White — Colored?" 
"Man— Woman?" "Pro— Con?" In English law this is done 
in the distinctions between "Adult — Juvenile" or "Sane — 
Insane." In the social sciences it is done in such contrasts as 
"monopoly — competition" in economics, "democratic — 
authoritarian" or "totalitarian — liberal" in politics. We have 
already done it several times in this book, as in the dichot- 
omy between natural science and social science or between 
objective and subjective. The familiar polarization of man 
into spirit and flesh dominated religious ethics for centuries. 
This practice of slicing continua into parts or even into 
dual poles and giving names to these artificial categories is 
necessary if we are to think about the world or to talk about 
it. But we must always remain alert to the danger of believ- 
ing that our terms are real or refer to reality except by rough 
approximation. Only by making such divisions can we deal 
in a rational way with the many nonrational aspects of the 

We could, of course, renounce any desire to deal with the 
world rationally and content ourselves with successful non- 
rational dealings with it. We can deal with the irrationality 
of space, time, quantity, number, race, color, and so forth, 
simply by action. Merely to walk, or to run like Achilles, 
is to deal with the irrationality of space and time and to 
discover, by action, who will win in a race. When we merely 
walk along, talking with our friends, we are, by walking, 
dealing successfully with space and time. No one could ever 
walk rationally. Simply stand still and make an effort to 
walk rationally. What is the first thing to do? And what 
should be done next? What messages must be given to which 
muscles and in what sequence? We do not know, and we 

Historical Analysis »99 

could not do such a complicated mental operation quickly 
enough to walk by any rational thinking process. 
When we approach history, we are dealing with a con- 
glomeration of irrational continua. Those who deal with 
history by nonrational processes are the ones who make 
history, the actors in it. But the historian must deal with 
history by rational processes. Accordingly, he must be aware 
of the processes and difficulties to which we have referred 
when we try to deal with continua rationally. For history 
deals with changes in society. And all changes, occurring 
in time, involve continua. Both society and culture are, even 
if static, concerned with continua. Indeed, a society is a 
continuum of continua in five dimensions. 
When we say that a society or a civilization exists in five 
dimensions, we are referring to the fact that it exists in the 
three dimensions of space, the fourth dimension of time, and 
the fifth dimension of abstraction. All of these are easy to 
understand except the last. Let us look, for a moment, at 
this fifth dimension of abstraction. It is clear that every cul- 
ture consists of concrete objects like clothes and weapons, 
of less tangible objects like emotions and feelings, and of 
quite abstract things like ideas. These form the dimension 
of abstraction. For example, in Western civilization we have 
such items as the following: (a) automobiles, (b) romantic 
love, (c) nationalism, (d) Beethoven's string quartets, and 
(c) the integral calculus. All of these are clearly products 
of Western civilization and could not have been produced 
by any other culture. They are of different degrees of ab- 
stractness and, accordingly, we can say that Western culture 
exists in a fifth dimension, the dimension of abstraction. 
This is the same dimension as the gamut of human needs to 

100' The Evolution of Civilizations 

which we previously referred. However, it is wider than this 
gamut. It may be similarly divided into six levels, in a rough 
and approximate fashion. These divisions are arbitrary and 
imaginary, and even the order in which we list the levels is 
partly a matter of taste. These levels are, from the more 
abstract to the more concrete: (1) intellectual, (2) relig- 
ious, (3) social, (4) economic, (5) political, and (6) mili- 
tary. Each of them could, if necessary, be subdivided into 
innumerable sublevels, as, for example, the economic into 
agriculture, commerce, and industry or into production, dis- 
tribution and consumption. Such varied divisions and sub- 
divisions are made possible by the fact that the reality is 
much more subtle and complex than are the categories of 
our thinking processes. 

Assuming such a sixfold division of culture, it becomes 
possible to make a rough diagram of the history of any 
culture by letting the vertical axis represent the dimension of 
abstraction and the horizontal axis (from left to right) 
represent the passage of time. Thus: 

1500 1600 1700 1800 1900 2000 

In the above diagram we have represented the changes in 
culture from 1500 to 2000. The changes that take place in 
any single level (however we divide it or subdivide it) we 

Historical Analysis »101 

shall call "development." Thus we may speak, for example, 
of the "intellectual development" or of the "military de- 
velopment" of a culture. The process of change on any 
single level we shall speak of as "historical development" 
(always remembering that the divisions between levels are 
arbitrary and imaginary and that we can make as many or 
as few as we like, because the levels really merge into each 

Since the levels of culture arise from men's efforts to 
satisfy their human needs, we can say that every level has a 
purpose. Assuming the sixfold division we have made, we 
can speak of six basic human needs: (1) the need for group 
security, (2) the need to organize interpersonal power re- 
lationships, (3) the need for material wealth, (4) the need 
for companionship, (5) the need for psychological certainty, 
and (6) the need for understanding. To satisfy these needs, 
there come into existence on each level social organizations 
seeking to achieve these. These organizations, consisting 
largely of personal relationships, we shall call "instruments" 
as long as they achieve the purpose of the level with relative 
effectiveness. But every such social instrument tends to be- 
come an "institution." This means that it takes on a life and 
purposes of its own distinct from the purpose of the level; in 
consequence, the purpose of that level is achieved with de- 
creasing effectiveness. In fact, it can be stated as a rule of 
history that "all social instruments tend to become institu- 
tions." The meaning of this rule will appear as we discuss 
its causes. 

An instrument is a social organization that is fulfilling 
effectively the purpose for which it arose. An institution is 
an instrument that has taken on activities and purposes of 
its own, separate from and different from the purposes for 

102- The Evolution of Civilizations 

which it was intended. As a consequence, an institution 
achieves its original purposes with decreasing effectiveness. 
Every instrument consists of people organized in relation- 
ships to one another. As the instrument becomes an in- 
stitution, these relationships become ends in themselves to 
the detriment of the ends of the whole organization. When 
people want their society to be defended, they create an 
organization called an army. This army consists of many 
persons with different duties. Each person takes as his 
purpose the fulfilling of his duties, but this soon leaves no 
one in the organization with the purpose of the organization 
as his primary purpose. The purpose of the organization — in 
this case, to defend the society — becomes no more than a 
secondary aim for everyone in the organization. Defense 
becomes secondary to discipline, keeping authority in chan- 
nels, feeding and paying the troops, providing supplies or 
intelligence, and keeping visiting congressmen, or the people 
as a whole, happy about the army, the personal comforts 
of the soldiers, and so on. Moreover, as a second reason why 
every instrument becomes an institution, everyone in such 
an organization is only human and has human weakness and 
ambitions, or at least has the human proclivity to see things 
from an egocentric point of view. Thus, in every organiza- 
tion, persons begin to seek their own advancements or to 
act for their own advantages: seeking promotions, decora- 
tions, increases in pay, better or easier assignments; these 
begin to absorb more and more of the time and energies of 
the members of an organization. All of this reduces the time 
and energy devoted to the real goal of the organization and 
injures the general effectiveness with which an organization 
achieves its purposes. Finally, as a third reason why every 
instrument becomes an institution, the social conditions 

Historical Analysis • 103 

surrounding any such organization change in the course of 
time. When this happens the organization must be changed 
to adapt itself to the changed conditions or it will function 
with decreased effectiveness. But the members of any or- 
ganization generally resist such change; they have become 
"vested interests." Having spent long periods learning to do 
things in a certain way or with certain equipment, they find 
it difficult to persuade themselves that different ways of do- 
ing things with different equipment have become necessary; 
and, even if they do succeed in persuading themselves, they 
have considerable difficulty in training themselves to do 
things in a different way or to use different equipment. 
Military history offers numerous examples of the in- 
stitutionalization of instruments. The Roman army, which 
had conquered most of the known world by means of the 
legion, was unable, and probably unwilling, to transform 
itself into a force of heavily armed cavalry when this became 
necessary in the late fourth century of our era. As a result, 
the Roman army, and the civilization it was supposed to 
defend, were wiped from the earth by the charging horse- 
men of Germanic barbarians, beginning with the dreadful 
defeat at Adrianople in 378. The inability of fighting men 
to reorganize their ideas and their forces from infantry to 
cavalry was one of the vital factors in the replacement of 
pagan Classical civilization by Christian Western civiliza- 

In the centuries from a.d. 700 to 1200, cavalry in the 
form of the medieval knight became as established in mili- 
tary tactics as the Roman infantry had ever been. In 732 
the Saracens, whose relentless advance had begun in Arabia 
a century before, were defeated by the cavalry of Charles 
Martel at Tours, and the Christian West was saved from 

104- The Evolution of Civilizations 

Moslem conquest. By 1099 the Western counterattack had 
reached in apex in the capture of Jerusalem. In the three- 
century interval between these two victories, Germanic and 
Frankish cavalry, under Charlemagne, Otto the Great, and 
others, had saved Western culture from numerous pagan 
threats. Methods of fighting from horseback had become 
well established, almost formalized, and had begun to as- 
sume those chivalric embellishments that contributed so 
much to the institutionalization of this method of warfare. 
Noble youths, as we all know, spent years in jousting and 
tournaments to achieve the skill considered necessary for 
success on the field of battle. 

The supremacy of the medieval knight was still unques- 
tioned in the early decades of the fourteenth century. The 
defeat of French chivalry at the hands of bourgeois infantry 
before Courtrai in 1302 was dismissed by the losers as an 
inexplicable and unrepeatable accident. On the Celtic fringe 
of Britain, similar defeats at the hands of lower-class long- 
bow men were more readily recognized for what they were, 
a new and successful tactic, and bowmen were incorporated 
into the English armies. By means of this innovation, En- 
glish mercenary armies were able to inflict a series of dis- 
astrous defeats on French feudal forces in the century 
following the opening of the Hundred Years' War in 1338. 
The inability of the French knights to analyze their defeats 
is one of the best examples we have of the reactions of an 
institutionalized force to weapons innovation. Of the numer- 
ous blinders on their eyes, the most significant perhaps was 
their inability to conceive that men of low birth could kill 
men of noble blood from a distance. A similar inability, in 
the same period, made it impossible for the noble cavalry of 

Historical Analysis «105 

Burgundy and of the Hapsburgs to analyze their defeats at 
the hands of Swiss pikemen. 

The advent of gunpowder and the intensification of fire- 
power made cavalry obsolescent in the early nineteenth cen- 
tury and obsolete before the end of that century, yet by 1900 
cavalrymen were still dominant in many armies and enor- 
mous resources were devoted to an army that was, by that 
time, largely worthless. As early as the Crimean War 
(1854-56) the poet Tennyson saw that it was a blunder to 
send cavalry charging against gunfire. The American Civil 
War should have shown clearly the demise of offensive 
cavalry and even the fraudulent nature of its claim that it 
was, at least, "the eyes of the army." Yet the postwar 
reminiscences of officers were filled with the exploits, largely 
based on institutionalized self-deception, of military men. 
Reviewing some of these reminiscences, in its issue of Oc- 
tober 31, 1868, the Army and Navy Journal said: "The 
day of the saber is over. The late civil war in America, which 
taught so much both in military and naval science, made it 
manifest that cavalry as cavalry had finished its work. Al- 
ready fifty years before, at Waterloo, the havoc made in the 
matchless 'Old Guard,' the consummation and ideal of 
cavalry, by the English infantry, had destroyed the prestige 
of heavy cavalry on the actual battlefield. But since then, 
the perfection of rifled arms, both in infantry and artillery 
weapons, has made its downfall absolute. It is a question of 
shock against shock; and, with 'modern arms of precision,' 
a compact body of infantry can empty every saddle in a 
charging squadron before it arrives to where sabers can be 
used." Leaving aside, for the moment, the fact that fire- 
power, as these words were written, had also condemned any 

106' The Evolution of Civilizations 

"compact body of infantry," we must emphasize the fact 
that these remarks on the role of cavalry went largely un- 
heeded in military circles. By the end of the century cavalry- 
men, in all armies except the French and the Germans, were 
organizing, both formally and informally, to maintain the 
role of cavalry in military forces and to secure promotions 
for fellow cavalrymen. 

The talent "experts" have for seeing what they expect to 
see or what they are trained to see rather than what is there 
to see is nowhere better shown than in the tactical discus- 
sions preceding World War I. In giving evidence before the 
Royal Commission on the [Boer] War in South Africa, that 
intrepid cavalryman Douglas Haig announced firmly, "Cav- 
alry will have a larger sphere of action in future wars." That 
was in 1904. Fourteen years later, as British commander in 
chief in France (having succeeded in that post another 
cavalryman, Sir John French), Haig had to cooperate with 
the commander in chief of the American Expeditionary 
Force, also a cavalry general, John Pershing. Pershing's 
obsession with the importance of cavalry made it necessary 
for him to carry on two wars, one against the Germans and 
another, almost equally virulent, against Peyton C. March, 
Chief of Staff in Washington. Much of this struggle, in 
which Pershing, as a public hero, was generally successful, 
was concerned with the control of transatlantic shipping 
space, which Pershing wanted to utilize for horses and 
fodder, while March sought to reserve it for men and 

In an analysis of this problem in 1935, the military histor- 
ian Liddell Hart wrote: "French, Germans, Russians, and 
Austrians had unexampled masses of cavalry ready at the 

Historical Analysis • 107 

outbreak of war. But in the opening phase they caused more 
trouble to their own sides than to the enemy. From 1915 on, 
their effect was trivial, except as a strain on their own 
country's supplies: despite the relatively small number of 
British cavalry, forage was the largest item of supplies sent 
overseas, exceeding even ammunition, and thus the most 
dangerous factor in aggravating the submarine menace; 
while by authoritative verdict, the transport trouble caused 
in feeding the immense number of cavalry horses was an 
important factor in producing the Russian collapse." 
Nor does the story of cavalry complete the picture of how 
military institutions distort men's picture of reality to the 
injury of their stated aims. A more significant and more 
frightful example is to be seen in the bayonet. This steely 
blade was made obsolete by increased firepower almost as 
rapidly as the cavalry's saber, yet the change went equally 
unobserved by most experts. In fact, the cause of the obso- 
lescence of both saber and bayonet, the great increase in 
firepower, especially from machine guns, went equally un- 
observed. According to the book, as taught in military 
schools and training manuals, victory in battle was achieved 
by methods perfected by Napoleon, as analyzed by Clause- 
witz (1780-1831). On this basis orthodox expertise estab- 
lished that victory was to be achieved by the three successive 
stages of artillery barrage, bayonet assault with infantry, 
and cavalry pursuit with saber. To this, near the end of the 
nineteenth century, the Frenchman Charles Ardant du Picq 
added the murderous addendum that all three of these stages 
were really secondary to morale. General Ferdinand Foch, 
for many years in charge of advanced training of French 
officers, entrenched these professional and erroneous views 

108 The Evolution of Civilizations 

by reporting, from his on-the-field studies of the Russian- 
Japanese War of 1904-05, that machine-gun fire would not 
reduce the effectiveness of bayonet charges. 
A third example of institutionalized thinking in military 
tactics in this period might be called the doctrine of the 
"straight front." According to the book, the worst error a 
commander could make would be to allow his unit to be cut 
off from his line of supplies and to be caught in a "cross- 
fire." To avoid these errors, it was "imperative" to advance 
with a straight front against the enemy, even if this required 
holding back the advance at defensively weak spots and 
throwing reserves at the enemy's strong points. Simply by 
reversing this rule in March 1918 (by advancing as rapidly 
as possible and by throwing reserves at the defensive weak 
points, thus bypassing and isolating his strong points), 
Erich von Ludendorff made the most spectacular advances 
of the war, bursting over Chemin des Dames and being 
stopped finally, ten weeks later, thirty-four miles from Paris 
— stopped because he could not bring himself to use his 
unorthodox methods with full conviction and resources. 
As a consequence of the institutionalization of military 
tactics by devotion to the bayonet, the saber, and the straight 
front, the early years of World War I saw the largest casual- 
ties in history, suffered, in most cases, to advance over a few 
miles of devastated terrain. In the early months of 1916 
almost a million casualties were suffered by both sides in a 
single battle (Verdun), while later in the same year another 
battle (Somme) cost 1,200,000 casualties, mostly by bay- 
onet charges against machine-gun fire. When civilians in 
England tried to force the professional soldiers to use the 
tank, or civilians in Germany tried to make the professionals 
use poison gas against machine guns, both were resisted 

Historical Analysis «109 

bitterly. When the civilians succeeded in ordering the mili- 
tary to use these innovations, their use was sabotaged by the 
soldiers. The refusal of the British Command, in 1915, to 
yield to civilian requests to shift their munition orders from 
ineffective shrapnel to high-explosive shells for barrages 
against trench defenses led to an acute intragovernmental 
crisis that gave impetus to the rise of David Lloyd George. 
In the American army of 1918 a major part of training time 
was devoted to bayonet practice. As late as 1940 this was 
still true, although in the interval the casualty statistics of 
World War I had shown that the casualty figures from 
bayonet wounds were microscopic. Noncommissioned of- 
ficers, skilled in bayonet tactics, were reluctant to abandon 
something that they knew and could teach, and justified 
their inertia, in spite of the statistics, on the grounds of the 
presumed morale-raising attributes of cold steel. From ex- 
periences such as these, the French premier, Georges 
Clemenceau, drew the conclusion that "war is far too im- 
portant to ever be entrusted to soldiers." 
Clemenceau might well have broadened his remark to say 
that everything is too important ever to be entrusted to pro- 
fessional experts, because every organization of such pro- 
fessionals and every established social organization becomes 
a vested-interest institution more concerned with its efforts 
to maintain itself or advance its own interests than to achieve 
the purpose that society expects it to achieve. As a conse- 
quence, old established armies and navies have frequently 
been defeated by new forces that have not yet become 
institutionalized. Thus the Greeks defeated the Persians; 
the new Roman navy defeated the Carthaginian fleet; the 
English defeated the French chivalry in the Hundred Years' 
War; the English navy, barely seventy-five years old, de- 

110- The Evolution of Civilizations 

feated the Spanish Armada; Braddock was defeated; the 
Colonists won the American Revolution; the new French 
armies of Napoleon defeated the old, bedecorated forces of 
Austria and Prussia; the new Prussian army of Emil von 
Roon and Helmuth von Moltke defeated Austria and France 
in 1866 and 1870; the Boers held off the English for years; 
and Japan defeated Russia in 1905. Such defeats can be 
avoided only by constant reform that seeks to reorganize an 
institutionalized force so that its aim — to defeat the enemy 
— remains always paramount. 

This situation appears in every social organization. Work- 
ers join together to get better pay and working conditions. 
The organizations they form, labor unions, soon take on a 
life of their own, and the workers begin to wonder if they 
are not now as much the slaves of the union as formerly 
they were slaves of the management. The kings of England, 
long ago, created a representative assembly to consent to 
taxation. Soon that assembly (Parliament) took on life of 
its own and ended by decapitating, removing, and ruling 
kings. A political party was organized in 1854 to protect 
freedom in the United States and to prevent the extension of 
slavery. By 1868 it was an organized machine of vested 
interests, a functioning spoils system, whose chief aim was 
to perpetuate itself in office and whose chief method for 
achieving that aim was to end the freedom of the whites in 
the South. A church is organized to bring men psychological 
security by linking them with the Deity. A century later it 
has become a vested institution with wealth and power, and 
its chief aim is to preserve and expand these valuable pre- 
rogatives. A college is organized to train youth in practical 
and humane achievements; later it has become a whole 
tissue of vested interests in which standards are lowered 

Historical Analysis 111 

and admission qualifications relaxed in order to secure a 
flow of tuitions that go to meet the institution's expenses. 
Within its hallowed walls, professors intrigue for promo- 
tions and appointments for themselves and their disciples, 
while a condition of undeclared war goes on between de- 
partments and schools to get larger student enrollments in 
their courses and thus justify bigger slices from the annual 
university budget. Even in earlier days, professors of the 
classics resisted efforts to reduce required Latin from four 
years to two, or to make Greek completely elective, or to 
abolish compulsory chapel, or to establish a first (elective) 
course in chemistry without any efforts at any objective 
analysis of the purposes of these activities or of their role in 
training youth for later life; that these changes would reduce 
the established system's control of the college was, in most 
cases, a sufficient argument to oppose change. 
We see fraternities, established to promote fellowship 
among students, with the passage of time become vested 
institutions serving to destroy fellowship by dividing the 
students into uncordial and competitive cliques to the 
jeopardy of real academic goals. A game called football 
was invented about 1870 to provide healthful physical exer- 
cise for the undergraduates on bright autumn afternoons. 
Seventy years later the undergraduates who needed exercise 
most were seated in the stands of a city baseball park on 
Friday night, with their flasks and their coeds, while on the 
grass (or mud) below, the undergraduates who needed exer- 
cise least pushed each other about under the floodlights. 
The process by which football was, almost imperceptibly, 
transformed from an instrument for providing physical ex- 
ercise to an institution acting as an obstacle to exercise for 
many students who loved the game and needed the exercise 

112 The Evolution of Civilizations 

is as instructive an example of social development as 
changes in military tactics. The informal games of the 
1860s and early 1870s between groups from the same 
campus led, little by little, to challenges for games with other 
institutions. This led to travel expenses, more formalized 
rules, nonpartisan officials, and uniforms. The increase in 
interest led to larger groups of spectators. What could be 
more natural than to pass a hat among these spectators to 
raise money for the players' expenses? Defeats led to desire 
for revenge, and thus to stricter rules of team membership, 
practice, and training. All of this led gradually to more 
formalized coaching. This task rested at first with the cap- 
tain and more experienced players, but, as established inter- 
collegiate rivalries began to grow, an experienced player of 
previous years, usually the last victorious captain, was asked 
to return from the outside world to coach intensively during 
the week before the "big game." As other colleges adopted 
this pattern and several "big games" a year emerged, the 
demands on graduates to return to the campus for coaching 
duty became more than could be fulfilled. The obvious 
solution, a full-time paid coach, made it essential to have an 
established team income. "Passing the hat" among the 
spectators was replaced by sales of tickets at a fixed price. 
But sold tickets entitled spectators to a seat, which led very 
quickly to the building of the first modern stadium (1903). 
In time stadiums were being built with borrowed funds, with 
the result that their mortgage charges, along with coaches' 
salaries and other expenses, made it essential that the sta- 
dium's seats, no matter how numerous, must be filled, or 
nearly filled, on the eight or so Saturdays a year it was used. 
Gradually the interests of the spectators and the need for 
football income became dominant over the interests of any 

Historical Analysis • 1 13 

undergraduate who liked football or needed exercise. The 
team had to win, at least most of the time, and the game had 
to be spectacular to watch. Scouts looked for able players 
outside and, in one way or another, persuaded them to come 
to the scout's college to play football. Financial rewards 
proved, in many cases, to be powerful persuaders. Thus the 
game shifted from undergraduates who needed exercise to 
those who had already had too much exercise. At some in- 
stitutions, where football incomes were earmarked for edu- 
cational uses such as for building funds, almost all games 
were played in baseball parks of large cities remote from the 
campus, with the result that the team could rarely be seen by 
its own students. Teams that played on the East Coast, the 
West Coast, and the Gulf Coast on successive weekends 
spent much of the autumn traveling and might be away from 
their college halls for weeks. 

When the depression cut attendance in the early 1930s, 
many games were scheduled in the evening to attract work- 
ing spectators. For the same purpose the rules were manipu- 
lated to give more open play, high scores, and superiority to 
the offense. By reducing the diameter of the ball, it was 
made easier to pass and harder to kick, in the belief that 
spectators preferred passing. Restrictions on passing requir- 
ing a minimum distance behind the scrimmage line for the 
passer or penalizing successive incompleted passes were re- 
moved. To keep the ball moving on offense, the referee was 
instructed to move the ball in fifteen yards from the side 
lines when it became dead closer than that distance from the 
sides. At no point in this process did many persons stop to 
ask themselves, 'What is the purpose of football anyway?" 
But those who look at football's ninety years of development 
can see quite clearly how an organization which originally 

1 14 • The Evolution of Civilizations 

rose as an instrument for undergraduate exercise had be- 
come something quite different, to the jeopardy of under- 
graduate exercise. 

This process, which we call the institutionalization of in- 
struments, is found in almost all social phenomena. The 
purpose of music, I suppose, is to provide pleasure from 
sounds. Various notes are combined together for this pur- 
pose and are thus a medium for achieving the purpose of 
music. But if the same combinations are much used and long 
continued, they cease to provide pleasure and even cease 
to be heard. They become "banal." New combinations of 
sound are devised, usually over the objections of the acade- 
mician defenders of the older banal combinations who call 
the innovations "dissonance" or even "discord." But soon 
the new combinations become accepted, give pleasure, and 
after much use become banal. They have become institu- 
tionalized. Later students, looking back over the develop- 
ment of music, frequently wonder what all the excitement 
was about. It is difficult for us today to hear the "disson- 
ance" that contemporaries heard in Mozart; we even have 
some trouble hearing the "discords" with which Stravinsky 
so shocked the musical world in 1913. 

A similar process can be seen in painting, sculpture, arch- 
itecture, drama, opera, poetry and, indeed, in most human 
activities. Works that caused riots at their debuts, like Hu- 
go's Hernani or Eliot's Prufrock, leave us cold or only 
slightly moved. They have reached a condition equivalent 
to music's banality. Expressions that were vivid, concrete, 
evocative, and thus "poetical" when first used become "pro- 
saic." The expression "Let us get under weigh," which once 
would recall a full- sail vessel getting under the weight of its 
anchor and thus off to sea, has now become so 1 a c k i n g in 

Historical Analysis *1 15 

these poetic qualities that editors, proofreaders, and even 
H. W. Fowler insist on spelling "weigh" as "way." 
There is of course nothing particularly original in the 
statement that organizations begin with devotion to a pur- 
pose and somehow along the way get turned from that pur- 
pose and gradually become a collection of special interests. 
The historians of religion frequently point out this process 
by distinguishing between "religion" and "clericalism." To 
escape this transformation, the Quakers renounced all or- 
ganizational features, but it can hardly be said that they have 
been successful in escaping completely from what seems to 
be an inevitable process of change. Thorstein Veblen de- 
voted much of his analysis of our economic system to a 
similar process which he contrasted by such dichotomies as 
industry versus business, workmanship versus vested inter- 
ests, or the engineers versus the price system. 
The process of which we speak was generalized by 
Charles Peguy in Notre Jeunesse when he said, "Everything 
begins as mystique and ends up as politique."" In his own ex- 
perience he had seen the idealism and broad humanitarian- 
ism of the original Dreyfusards gradually transformed into 
the selfish grasping at political power of the Combes minis- 
try. The experience seared his idealistic soul to the point 
where he welcomed death from German guns in 1914. 
Fortunately for the survival of mankind most of us are not 
so sensitive as Peguy, for the institutionalization of social 
instruments is the most widespread of historical phenomena, 
and no observant person can fail to notice it. We shall point 
out many examples of this process in the rest of this volume. 
When instruments become institutions, as they all do, the 
organization achieves its function or purpose in society with 
decreasing effectiveness, and discontent with its perform- 

1 16 • The Evolution of Civilizations 

ance begins to rise, especially among outsiders. These dis- 
contented suggest changes, which they call reforms, just as 
we see happening in American elementary and secondary 
education today. When these suggestions are not accepted or 
are rejected by the established groups who control the criti- 
cized organization, conflicts and controversies begin, the dis- 
contented seeking to change the organization, while the 
vested interests seek to maintain their accustomed methods 
of operation. While all good or all wrong is never entirely on 
one side in such controversies, discontent and controversy 
are unlikely to rise to any important level unless the organi- 
zation is well institutionalized and considerably less effective 
than the society as a whole expects. Accordingly, when this 
degree of discontent is reached, the vested-interest groups 
are generally tending to defend a relatively ineffective sys- 
tem and the "reformers" are, among many mistakes, gen- 
erally advocating measures that would increase the 
organization's relative effectiveness in achieving its social 

The strain between the two groups engaged in a struggle 
such as this will be called, in this book, "the tension of de- 
velopment." From this tension and its ensuing controversy, 
there may emerge any one (or combination) among three 
possible outcomes: reform, circumvention, or reaction. In 
the first case, reform, the institution is reorganized and its 
methods of action changed so that it becomes, relatively 
speaking, more of an instrument and achieves its purpose 
with sufficient facility to reduce tension to a socially accept- 
able level. In the second case, circumvention, the institution 
is left with most of its privileges and vested interests intact, 
but its duties are taken away and assigned to a new instru- 
ment within the same society. This second method is much 

Historical Analysis • 1 1 7 

used by the English. The king was left covered with honors, 
but the task of governing England was taken over by Parlia- 
ment and ultimately by a committee of Parliament. The 
Lord Warden of the Cinq Ports has a brilliant uniform and 
a drafty castle, but the task of guarding the seas of England 
was given to the Royal Navy in the sixteenth century. The 
Earl Marshal of England is left with titles and social prestige 
and still manages the coronation, but the job of leading the 
army was given to a commander in chief. In the period 
before the tenth century, when Europe needed defense, an 
organization called feudalism grew up to provide this need, 
and performed its task so well that European culture was 
preserved from the assaults of the Saracens, the pagan Ger- 
mans, and the eastern raiders. In fact, feudalism performed 
its task so well that by 1100 Europe was mounting that 
counterassault that we call the Crusades. But within three 
hundred years, feudalism had become a vested institution of 
hereditary privileges and emoluments. It was circumvented 
by creating in the society a new organization, called the 
Royal Army, to which the task of defense was given. The 
privileged vested interests of feudalism were neither re- 
formed nor abolished but were left as a structure of honor 
and rewards that we call chivalry and the hereditary nobility. 
In the third possible outcome, reaction, the vested inter- 
ests triumph in the struggle, and the people of that society 
are doomed to ineffective achievement of their needs on that 
level for an indefinite period. The agrarian system of ancient 
Rome was an inefficient method of producing food even in 
respect of the existing technical knowledge, but to reform 
it would have involved abolition of slavery and division of 
the large estates. The reformers who wanted to do this were 
assassinated by the daggers of the landlords, some on the 

118* The Evolution of Civilizations 

floor of the senate itself. As a result, the economic needs of 
the Roman system could be met only by the use of other 
levels, especially by military conquest and by political ex- 
ploitation of conquered provinces. But in time, both the 
political and the military organizations became ineffective 
vested institutions. The result was civil war and eventual 
conquest by outside barbarians. 

When an institution has been reformed or circumvented, 
there is once again an instrument on the level in question, 
and the purpose of that level is achieved with relative effec- 
tiveness. But, once again, as always happens, the new in- 
strument becomes an institution, effectiveness decreases, 
tension of development rises, and conflict appears. If the 
outcome of this conflict is either reform or circumvention, 
effectiveness increases and tension decreases. If the outcome 
is reaction, ineffectiveness becomes chronic and tension re- 
mains high. 

As a result of this process of historical development, the 
development of each level appears in history as a pulsating 
movement. Periods of economic prosperity alternate with 
periods of economic stagnation; periods of religious or in- 
tellectual satisfaction alternate with periods of religious or 
intellectual frustration. Periods of political order or military 
success alternate with periods of political disorder or mili- 
tary disaster. 

This process of historical development takes place on 
innumerable levels of a society because there are innumer- 
able levels to the culture. But this process is only one aspect 
of the historical evolution of a society. The other aspect we 
call historical morphology; it is concerned with the relation- 
ships between the different levels of culture in a society. 

Historical Analysis • 1 1 9 

Before we examine it, we might state, in a formal way, three 

1. Historical development is concerned with the changes 
that take place on any single level of culture in a society. 

2. Historical morphology is concerned with the ways in 
which one level of culture influences the other levels of cul- 
ture in the same society. 

3. Historical evolution is a resultant of historical develop- 
ment and historical morphology, both acting simultaneously 
and reacting on each other. 

"Morphology" is a word borrowed from biology. It means 
that the parts of a living organism are adapted to one an- 
other. In its most obvious sense it means that a giraffe could 
not possibly have the neck of an elephant nor could an 
elephant have the legs of a giraffe. But it also has a more 
subtle meaning. When we speak of a heavyweight boxer 
we frequently mention his "best fighting weight." This means 
that, given his height, reach, age, experience, and all the 
rest of his specifications, there is an optimum weight for his 
best fighting ability. If he is over that weight, he is slowed 
up; if he is under that weight, his blows lack impact. On the 
other hand, if he is at his best fighting weight, there is also 
an optimum length for his arms or an optimum height. If his 
reach or his height varies by much from these optimum 
points, his fighting ability will suffer. All of these are mor- 
phological relationships. 

The same kinds of morphological relationships appear in 
a society. The ability of a society to defend itself on the mili- 
tary level is dependent on its ability to provide domestic 
order on the political level, wealth on the economic level, 
companionship on the social level, understanding on the 

720 • The Evolution of Civilizations 

intellectual level, and psychic certainty on the religious level. 
At the same time the ability of the society to defend itself 
affects its ability to achieve these five other goals. Thus each 
level is closely connected with all the others. It would be 
quite impossible to support a mechanized army without a 
fairly centralized political system, without a highly indus- 
trialized economic system, or without a fairly active scien- 
tific tradition on the intellectual level. On the other hand, a 
military system like feudalism, in which men fought as 
trained specialists on horseback, could be supported by a 
completely decentralized political system (in which there 
was no state at all) or by a purely agricultural economic 
system, and with an intellectual system which emphasized 
honor and loyalty rather than knowledge or science. Such a 
system existed in Western Europe about the year 1100, just 
as the system indicated in the preceding sentence exists in 
Europe in the twentieth century. 

Just as there is an optimum length for a giraffe's neck 
(given all his other measurements as fixed), and just as there 
is a best fighting weight or a best length of reach for a 
heavyweight boxer (given all his other measurements as 
fixed), so also there is an optimum point of development 
on each level of culture (assuming all the other levels have 
reached fixed points of development). This optimum point 
for each level in relationship to the development of each 
other level is the point at which morphological tension is 
least. This means that time and energy on each level can be 
devoted to achieving the purpose of each level and need not 
be used up in interlevel friction because of the need to speed 
up the development of another level; nor need such energy 
and time be used in any one level in amounts beyond that 
which would be required to attain a certain degree of 

Historical Analysis 


achievement on that level because of the inadequacies of 
some other level. For example, if the point of development 
of the political level is morphologically inadequate, more 
time and energy must be expended on the economic or the 
military level to achieve a certain amount of production or 
protection from these levels. All this is really nothing more 
than a rewording of our previous statement that culture is 
integrative. And just as we said, at that time, that culture 
never gets integrated and that it would be a bad thing if it 
did, so we can say here that morphological tension never 
reaches zero and that it would be a bad thing if it did (for 
then the society would be rigidly frozen into an unchanging 
pattern and would perish). 

We can picture this somewhat more clearly with the aid 
of a diagram. In this diagram we shall mark, very roughly, 
the point which we believe our Western society has reached 
on each of the six levels of culture: 













Each of these points is a very rough estimate because 
each represents the resultant of a large number of sublevels. 
For example, the point we have indicated on the Intellectual 
Level represents the resultants of a very advanced science, a 
very backward art, a fairly mediocre humanities, and other 
factors. The backwardness of our religious development or 

122 • The Evolution of Civilizations 

of our social developments represents the widespread frustra- 
tion of these human needs, the low level of our appreciation 
of the nature of deity, the widespread failure to establish any 
feeling of relationship between this deity and man's spiritual 
life and, on the social level, the widespread frustration of 
men's gregarious needs in a society built on great cities, 
millions of unrecognized faces in those cities, and a general 
lack of established, satisfying social relationships. 
The advanced point indicated on the economic and mili- 
tary levels indicates the extraordinary success we have had 
in producing wealth and in directing power against outside 
societies. Our amazingly high standards of living are proof 
of the advanced status of the economic level, while the num- 
ber of outside societies that we have destroyed (from the 
American Indians and the Australian aborigines to Man- 
darian China or Mogul India) are witness to our success on 
the military level. The advanced states of both of these levels 
are largely due to the even further advanced state of our 
intellectual level. The fact that the latter is still in advance 
of the economic or military level means that its morpho- 
logical influence on them is still tending to pull them for- 
ward. On the other hand, the backwardness of these two 
levels (and, indeed, of the three others as well) in relation- 
ship to the intellectual level is tending to hold the develop- 
ment of this last level back. Thus each level acts upon all 
the others. 

The backwardness of our religious and social develop- 
ments is undoubtedly holding back the development of the 
intellectual and political levels. At the same time, the rela- 
tively advanced state of the intellectual, economic, and mili- 
tary developments of our society is forcing the political 
development forward, while the backwardness of the po- 

Historical A naly sis -123 

litical level has a tendency to hold the developments on the 
military, economic, and intellectual levels back. The back- 
wardness of one level of development in respect of other 
levels of development is widely recognized among students 
of society, and is called "cultural lag." 

In the specific case we have just mentioned (the cultural 
lag of the political level), we are also dealing with a widely 
recognized fact. Our political organization, based as it is on 
an eighteenth-century separation of powers and on a nine- 
teenth-century nationalist state, is generally recognized to 
be semiobsolete. We hear demands for a "European federa- 
tion" or for a "twentieth-century Congress." The breakdown 
of the separation of powers is evident in therapid growth of 
administrative regulation (which disregards such separa- 
tion). The need to adapt the United States Constitution to 
the speed of communication of the twentieth century is 
evident in the Twentieth Amendment, which moved the 
inauguration date up from March 4 to January 20. The need 
for further adaptation is clear from the fact that the Ameri- 
can Congress still spends hours of its inadequate time on 
verbal roll-call votes when it could make a permanent- 
record vote by electricity in a few seconds. The power of 
vested institutionalism is evident in congressional resistance 
to a reform that would force congressmen to make a public 
record of their positions on each bill. 
One last example of morphological interrelationships, 
and that the most extreme, could be found in the relation- 
ship of the atomic bomb to Western civilization. This bomb 
was a product of our advanced development on the intel- 
lectual, economic, and military levels. The fact that this 
great discovery of atomic fission was used for a purely de- 
structive purpose is due to the backwardness of our religious, 

124 The Evolution of Civilizations 

social, and political levels. But the advanced condition of 
certain levels, as signified by the bomb, has undoubtedly 
had profound influences on the three more backward levels 
and will force them to advance more rapidly. There can be 
little doubt that the advent of atomic warfare on the military 
level has had profound effects and will have even more pro- 
found effects on the three backward levels. People are, in 
consequence of its use, turning again to the problem of re- 
ligion or the inadequacy of our political development. The 
decentralization of our cities is a process already clearly 
evident from such forces as improved communications (tele- 
phone) and transportation (automobiles), and is reflected 
in the growth of suburbs and the decrease in metropolitan 
growth; if the atom bomb speeds up this process, it will 
probably lead to a considerable advance on the social level. 
As people disperse from the great beehives of modern cities 
to the more intimate living of the suburbs and countryside, 
there will undoubtedly be a considerable improvement in 
the satisfaction of men's needs for companionship on this 
social level. 

Even in our oversimplified diagram of six levels, it is clear 
that the process of morphology is a complex one. There are 
thirty-six interrelationships between the six levels we have, 
and, since each relationship works both ways, there are 
seventy-two factors at work. But when we remember that 
the divisions between these levels are arbitrary and imag- 
inary and that really there are an infinite number of levels, 
each acting upon all the others, pulling these others forward 
or backward and being pulled backward or forward in turn, 
it is clear that the reality of cultural morphology is unbeliev- 
ably complex. The number of factors at work with an infinite 
number of levels is infinity raised to the infinite power and 

Historical Analysis 1 25 

multiplied by two. This is a number large enough for any- 

What happens in a society as a whole, what we called 
"historical evolution," is a resultant of historical develop- 
ment and morphology acting both independently and upon 
each other. If a level of development is going through the 
process of development that we have described — the process 
of institutionalization of instruments with growing tension 
— the outcome of such tension, as between reform, circum- 
vention, and reaction, may well be determined by morpho- 
logical factors. A level, regarded as if it were alone, may have 
all the factors necessary to produce reform. But the influ- 
ence of morphology may produce reaction. Something like 
this occurred in Spain in the period 1930-40. There, all 
the factors on the political level seemed to be leading 
toward reform, but the backwardness of the five other levels 
and the great power of the institutionalized vested interests 
on those five other levels turned political reform into po- 
litical reaction. 

We have said that the evolution of a society is a resultant 
of the two kinds of change that we call development and 
morphology. Let us now turn our attention to this larger 
issue, the historical evolution of a society, restricting our 
attention to the kind of society with which we are chiefly 
concerned, namely, a civilization. 

Historical Change 
in Civilizations 

Tt is clear that every civilization undergoes a process of 
-^-historical change. We can see that a civilization comes 
into existence, passes through a long experience, and even- 
tually goes out of existence. We know, for example, that 
Mesopotamian civilization did not exist about 10,000 B.C.; 
it did exist about 3000 B.C.; it had ceased to exist by a.d. 
1000. Similarly, it is clear that Classical civilization did not 
exist about 1500 B.C.; it clearly did exist about 500 B.C.; and 
it had obviously passed out of existence by a.d. 1000. And, 
finally, it is clear that Western civilization did not exist 
about a.d. 500; it did exist in full flower about a.d. 1500; 
and it will surely pass out of existence at some time in the 
future, perhaps before A.D. 2500. Now, while everyone will 
probably agree with all this, it would be difficult to obtain 
agreement on any specific dates on which these events 
occurred. This difficulty arises from the fact that civilizations 
come into existence, rise and flourish, and go out of exist- 
ence by a slow process which covers decades or even cen- 
turies, and historians are unable to agree on any precise 
dates for these events. This is perfectly proper: if Classical 
civilization came into existence by a slow process and went 

128 • The Evolution of Civilizations 

out of existence by a slow process, it would give a false 
appearance of rigidity to fix its dates, say at 1184 b.c.-a.d. 
476, as has sometimes been done. In the following discus- 
sion it should be remembered that the dates given for his- 
torical periods are only approximate. 

Beyond recognizing that civilizations begin and end, 
historians are fairly well agreed that, after they begin, they 
flourish and grow for a while, that eventually they reach a 
peak of power and prosperity, and that they weaken and 
decay before their final end. 

This process of evolution of civilizations can only be 
studied in an effective fashion if we divide it into a number 
of consecutive periods. We might divide it into two periods, 
such as "rise" and "decline"; we might divide it into three 
periods, such as "youth," "maturity," and "old age"; or we 
might divide it into five or fifty periods. The process of 
change in the history of any civilization is a continuum and, 
accordingly, the periods into which we may divide it are 
arbitrary and imaginary. Thus, it might be argued that one 
system of periodization is as good as another and, accord- 
ingly, we are free to divide it in any way that seems to fit 
our purpose at the moment. To some extent this is true, as 
long as we are aware that our periods are subjective, but 
necessary, divisions. 

However, it is not completely true that one periodization 
is as good as another, although any system of periodization 
may well be useful for some specific purpose. Obviously, 
periodization must depend on changes in the society's cul- 
ture. And, equally obviously, changes in a culture must de- 
pend on the causes of these changes. Accordingly, the 
periodization should, ideally, depend on the causes of the 
culture changes. This rule has been consistently neglected 
in all discussion of this subject. Writers tell us that a civiliza- 

Historical Change in Civilizations 129 

tion rises and falls; they divide this process into periods, and 
they sometimes try to explain why it rises and falls; but they 
rarely relate their periods of the process of change to their 
explanation of the causes of the change. 
The most popular explanation of the causes of historical 
change and especially of the rise and fall of civilizations has 
been by means of some biological analogy in which a people, 
once young and vigorous, were softened and weakened by 
rising standards of living, or by a loss of the ideology of hard 
work and self-sacrifice that had made their rise possible. In 
most cases little or no effort has been made to correlate this 
process of change with the various stages through which the 
civilization was said to have passed. In some cases this 
"softening of fiber" theory has been presented in a more 
naive form by a simple biological analogy in which civiliza- 
tions, like man himself, were felt to pass through a simple 
sequence of youth, maturity, and old age. In many cases no 
real explanation of the process of change has been given at 
all, the theorists in question being satisfied with attaching 
names to the various stages of historical change. Giovanni 
Battista Vico, for example, saw the history of each people as 
a process by which barbarian vigor slowly developed into 
rationalism, the period of greatest success being merely the 
middle period when the two qualities of vigor and rationality 
were in a fruitful, precarious, and temporary balance, while 
the decline was due to the final triumph of rationalism over 
energy. In the late nineteenth century, as biological sciences 
became more influential, these basic ideas were reserved 
with varying quantities of biological sauces. The Russian 
thinker Nikolai Danilevsky attributed the earlier period of 
vigor to biologic mixture of peoples, and attributed the 
intermediate ages of greatest achievement to the rise of a 
state organization that could direct such energies into more 

130 • The Evolution of Civilizations 

productive channels. The final stage of decay is not clearly 
explained but seems to be attributed to some process of po- 
litical institutionalization not too remote from the explana- 
tion offered here. 

At the turn from the nineteenth to the twentieth century, 
the influences of Darwinian thinking became dominant in 
theories of civilization dynamics. W. M. Flinders Petrie in 
1911 offered a Darwinian version of the theories of earlier 
writers such as Danilevsky: an earlier period of struggle, 
based on the vigorous energy of barbarian intruders, was 
gradually weakened by the enjoyment of rising standards of 
living which weakened "strife." Enunciating the general 
rule, "There is no advance without strife," Petrie pictured 
each cycle as an accelerating decay resulting from a decrease 
in "strife." This point of view, generally accepted by many 
of the earlier theorists on this subject, saw the later stages of 
any civilization as a period of decreasing strife or violence, 
a conclusion which seems to be sharply at variance with the 

To Oswald Spengler, one of the most famous of modern 
writers on this subject, a similar pattern was evident. He 
discerned in each people an earlier stage of vigorous cre- 
ativity that he called "culture" and a later stage of weaken- 
ing moral fiber and devotion to selfish physical comforts 
that he called "civilization." As is usual among writers on 
this subject, no real explanation was provided for this loss 
of motion, although the pattern was applied to ten different 

The most famous of recent writers on this subject, Arnold 
J. Toynbee, has produced the most voluminous and, in spite 
of its sprawling organization, most satisfactory theory of 
these processes. He is still strongly influenced by Darwinian 
biology, and attributes rise and fall of civilizations to the 

Historical Change in Civilizations • 1 3 1 

"challenge and response" to "the straggle for existence." In 
spite of his many improvements over earlier writers, espe- 
cially in regard to the units to which this pattern applies and 
the stages through which the pattern takes each unit, Toyn- 
bee's theories have several of the prevalent inadequacies of 
earlier writers, especially in his failure to correlate the stages 
of change with the process of change and, above all, in his 
failure to explain why a civilization which has been "re- 
sponding" to "challenges" successfully for centuries gradu- 
ally ceases to do so, and decays. 

Most of the earlier writers derived their patterns from the 
study of a relatively few units, and generally based their 
interpretations very largely on the Greco-Roman experience 
in Classical antiquity. This reliance on the culture that most 
of us know best is, of course, to be expected, but has been 
unfortunate, since the pattern of rise and fall in Classical an- 
tiquity is not completely typical, as can be seen from the 
difficulty most writers have had in deciding whether the 
Greeks and Romans should be treated separately or to- 

Vico derived his pattern from only two examples, Roman 
and Christian cultures, but most later writers had informa- 
tion, however vague, on a much greater number of cases. 
Many had no clear idea of the unit we call "civilization," 
and they confused peoples, political units, societies, and 
even religions in an indiscriminate fashion, greatly increas- 
ing the difficulty of finding patterns of change. Danilevsky 
spoke of ten historical "types," to which he added Russia as 
an eleventh in the future. In general his units were linguistic 
groupings, so that the Greeks and Romans were treated as 
separate units. Spengler also spoke of ten, but his units were 
different from Danilevsky's and were made very ambiguous 
in some cases by being based on spiritual outlooks, such as 

132 The Evolution of Civilizations 

his famous conceptions of Apollonian (Classical), Faustian 
(Western), and Magian (post-Classical Near Eastern) 
cultures. Toynbee saw about two dozen civilizations, not 
much different from those accepted in this present book. 
The pattern of change in civilizations presented here con- 
sists of seven stages resulting from the fact that each civili- 
zation has an instrument of expansion that becomes an 
institution. The civilization rises while this organization is an 
instrument and declines as this organization becomes an 

By the term "instrument of expansion" we mean that the 
society must be organized in such fashion that three things 
are true: (1) the society must be organized in such a way 
that it has an incentive to invent new ways of doing things; 
(2) it must be organized in such a way that somewhere in 
the society there is accumulation of surplus — that is, some 
persons in the society control more wealth than they wish 
to consume immediately; and (3) it must be organized in 
such a way that the surplus which is being accumulated is 
being used to pay for or to utilize the new inventions. All 
three of these things are essential to any civilization. Taken 
together, we call them an instrument of expansion. If a pro- 
ducing society has such an organization (an instrument of 
expansion), we call it a civilization, and it passes through 
the process we are about to describe. Before we describe 
this process, however, we should be certain we understand 
the nature of an instrument of expansion. 
The three essential parts of an instrument of expansion 
are incentive to invent, accumulation of surplus, and appli- 
cation of this surplus to the new inventions. Economists 
might call these three "invention," "saving," and "invest- 
ment," but the terms used by economists are generally so 

Historical Change in Civilizations '133 

ambiguous to noneconomists that we hesitate to use them. 
"Incentive to invent" is sometimes difficult for students 
to grasp because they assume that all societies are equally 
inventive, or that "necessity is the mother of invention," or 
that invention is somehow related to innate, hereditary bio- 
logical talent (so that there are "inventive races" and "non- 
inventive races"). None of these things is true. Some 
societies, like Mesopotamian civilization or our own West- 
ern civilization, are very inventive. Others, like many primi- 
tive tribes, or civilizations like the Egyptian, are very 
uninventive. Nor does "necessity" have much to do with 
inventiveness. If it did, those peoples who are pressed down 
upon the subsistence level, or even below it, in their stan- 
dards of living, like some of the Indian tribes of the Matto 
Grosso, would be very inventive, which they are not. Or, if 
invention were in any way related to necessity, the poverty- 
stricken fellahin of Egypt or Trans-Jordan or the equally 
hard-pressed coolies of China or the peasants of India would 
have devised some new and helpful methods for exploiting 
their available resources. This is far from being the case. 
Or, again, if biologically inherited talent had anything to do 
with inventiveness we would not have seen the great de- 
crease in invention by the Chinese in the last thousand 
years, or the decrease in inventiveness among Anglo-Saxon 
Americans in the last hundred years, or the sudden ap- 
pearance of inventiveness among noninventive peoples of 
eastern European stock when they migrated to America. 
Inventiveness depends very largely on the way a society 
is organized. Some societies have powerful incentives to in- 
vent, because they are organized in such a way that innova- 
tion is encouraged and rewarded. This was true of 
Mesopotamian civilization before 2700 B.C., of Chinese 

134 | The Evolution of Civilizations 

civilizations before A.D. 1200, and of Western civilization 
during much of its history. On the other hand, many socie- 
ties are organized so that they have very weak incentives 
to invent. Suppose that a primitive tribe believes that its 
social organization was established by a deity who went 
away leaving strict instructions that nothing be changed. 
Such a society would invent very little. Egyptian civilization 
was something like this. Or any society that had ancestor 
worship would probably have weak incentives to invent. Or 
a society whose productive system was based on slavery 
would probably be uninventive, because the slaves, who 
knew the productive process most intimately, would have 
little incentive to devise new methods since these would be 
unlikely to benefit themselves, while the slaveowners would 
have only a distant acquaintance with the productive proc- 
esses and would be reluctant to invent any new methods that 
might well require the ending of slavery for their successful 
exploitation. For these reasons, slave societies, such as 
Classical civilization or the Southern states of the United 
States in the period before 1860, have been notoriously 
uninventive. No major inventions in the field of production 
came from either of these cultures. The significance of this 
can be realized when we recall that at the very time that the 
South was inventing so little, the North, and especially the 
people of the Connecticut River Valley, were passing 
through one of the greatest periods of invention in history 
(cotton gin, mass production and interchangeable parts, 
steamboat, screw propeller, revolver, electric motor, vulcan- 
izing rubber, sewing machine, anesthesia, and so forth). 
"Accumulation of surplus" means that some persons or 
organizations in the society have more wealth passing 
through their control than they wish to use immediately or 

Historical Change in Civilizations • 135 

in the "short ran." This is so necessary to expansion that it 
means that some persons must have more than they need, 
even if others must have less than they need. If a society 
containing 100 persons is producing 100 square meals a 
day, it would, perhaps, be "just" for each person to obtain 
one meal a day, but such a distribution would never allow 
the society to increase its production of meals except by 
temporary and accidental increases called "windfalls." If, 
however, the distribution of square meals in that society is 
organized so that fifty persons get only half a meal a day, 
twenty-five persons get one meal a day each, and twenty-five 
persons get two meals a day each, it might be possible for 
the society to increase its production of square meals. This 
could be done if someone invented a better way of produc- 
ing square meals and if the twenty-five persons who get two 
meals each a day, consumed only one and a half meals each 
day and gave the surplus of twelve and a half meals each day 
to twenty-five of the fifty persons who had only half a meal 
each in return for their efforts in making the new, more pro- 
ductive, invention. This redistribution of meals to obtain 
the use of a new invention is what we mean by "investment," 
the third essential element in any instrument of expansion. 
We thus have three possible ways in which the 100 meals 
produced by this society could be distributed. They could 
be written as follows: 

Type A 

100 persons at 1 meal each 100 meals 


50 persons at 1/2 meal each 25 meals 

25 persons at 1 meal each 25 meals 

25 persons at 2 meals each 50 meals 

100 persons total 100 meals 

136* The Evolution of Civilizations 

With Type A distribution there can be no increase in out- 
put even if someone thinks of a new invention, since no one 
would have leisure to make it. With Type B distribution 
there may be an increase in output but only if someone 
thinks of a new invention and if the surplus of meals con- 
trolled by the twenty-five richest persons is redistributed to 
the poorer persons as payment for these poorer ones making 
the new invention. This would give a third type of income 
distribution if the surplus was invested in the way mentioned. 


25 persons at 1/2 meal each 12.5 meals 

50 persons at 1 meal each 50.0 meals 

25 persons at 1 .5 meals each 37.5 meals 

100 persons total 100 meals 

Every kind of material progress and many kinds of non- 
material progress depend upon the three factors we have 
mentioned. This is as true of parasitic societies as it is of 
productive societies. Let us imagine a solitary savage who 
lives by hunting and who, by throwing rocks at game from 
dawn to dusk, averages one rabbit a day. Let us further 
imagine that this diet of one rabbit a day is just enough to 
keep him alive until the next day. In such a situation this 
lonely hunter could not make a bow and arrow, even if he 
could invent it in his mind, because to make a bow and 
arrow would take, let us say, ten days' work. Thus this 
savage has an incentive to invent, even has the necessary 
invention, but he has no surplus and cannot improve his 
position. Then let us assume that he throws a rock one day 
and kills a deer large enough to keep him alive for twelve 
days. He now has both invention (in his mind) and surplus 

Historical Change in Civilizations • 137 

(the deer). He may live from the deer for twelve days in 
idleness, or he may use his leisure from hunting to make 
the bow and arrow he has conceived. In the former case he 
will be no better off, and may be worse off because of loss 
of skill in rock throwing as a result of such leisure. In the 
latter case, on the contrary, his surplus (the deer) is trans- 
formed into a bow and arrow by investment, and at the end 
of ten days he has a new weapon that raises his ability to 
kill rabbits from an average of one a day to, say, an average 
of three a day. Of these three he can consume one a day 
himself, as previously, and support two other savages with 
the two other rabbits he kills each day. In return for such 
support, these two could be required to build a hut, to 
cure rabbit skins, to make additional arrows, and so forth. 
In this way the new capital equipment, the bow and arrow, 
has made it possible to raise the standards of living of all 

It is by some such process as this, but much more elabor- 
ate and complex, that civilizations grow, thrive, and expand. 
Every civilization must be organized in such a way that it 
has invention, capital accumulation, and investment. 
Loosely speaking, the term "instrument of expansion" might 
be applied to the organization for capital accumulation 
alone, although, strictly speaking, this organization should 
be called the surplus-creating instrument. This surplus-cre- 
ating instrument is the essential element in any civilization, 
although, of course, there will be no expansion unless the 
two other elements (invention and investment) are also 
present. However, the surplus-creating instrument, by con- 
trolling the surplus and thus the disposition of it, will also 
control investment and will, thus, have at least an indirect 
influence on the incentive to invent. This surplus-creating 

138 • The Evolution of Civilizations 

instrument does not have to be an economic organization. 
In fact, it can be any kind of organization, military, political, 
social, religious, and so forth. In Mesopotamian civilization 
it was a religious organization, the Sumerian priesthood to 
which all members of the society paid tribute. In Egyptian, 
Andean and, probably, Minoan civilizations it was a po- 
litical organization, a state that created surpluses by a 
process of taxation or tribute collection. In Classical civili- 
zation it was a kind of social organization, slavery, that 
allowed one class of society, the slaveowners, to claim most 
of the production of another class in society, the slaves. In 
the early part of Western civilization it was a military organ- 
ization, feudalism, that allowed a small portion of the so- 
ciety, the fighting men or lords, to collect economic goods 
from the majority of society, the serfs, as a kind of payment 
for providing political protection for these serfs. In the later 
period of Western civilization the surplus-creating instru- 
ment was an economic organization (the price-profit system, 
or capitalism, if you wish) that permitted entrepreneurs 
who organized the factors of production to obtain from so- 
ciety in return for the goods produced by this organization 
a surplus (called profit) beyond what these factors of pro- 
duction had cost these entrepreneurs. 

Like all instruments, an instrument of expansion in the 
course of time becomes an institution and the rate of expan- 
sion slows down. This process is the same as the institution- 
alization of any instrument, but appears specifically as a 
breakdown of one of the three necessary elements of ex- 
pansion. The one that usually breaks down is the third — 
application of surplus to new ways of doing things. In 
modern terms we say that the rate of investment decreases. 
If this decrease is not made up by reform or circumvention, 

Historical Change in Civilizations *139 

the two other elements (invention and accumulation of 
surplus) also begin to break down. This decrease in the 
rate of investment occurs for many reasons, of which the 
chief one is that the social group controlling the surplus 
ceases to apply it to new ways of doing things because they 
have a vested interest in the old ways of doing things. They 
have no desire to change a society in which they are the 
supreme group. Moreover, by a natural and unconscious 
self-indulgence, they begin to apply the surplus they con- 
trol to nonproductive but ego- satisfying purposes such as 
ostentatious display, competition for social honors or pres- 
tige, construction of elaborate residences, monuments, or 
other structures, and other expenditures which may dis- 
tribute the surpluses to consumption but do not provide 
more effective methods of production. 

When the instrument of expansion in a civilization be- 
comes an institution, tension increases. In this case we call 
this "tension of evolution." The society as a whole has 
become adapted to expansion; the mass of the population 
expect and desire it. A society that has an instrument of 
expansion expands for generations, even for centuries. 
People's minds become adjusted to expansion. If they are 
not "better off" each year than they were the previous year, 
or if they cannot give their children more than they them- 
selves started with, they became disappointed, restless, and 
perhaps bitter. At the same time the society itself, after 
generations of expansion, is organized for expansion and 
undergoes acute stresses if expansion slows up. 
The nature of these organizational stresses and tensions 
arising from a decrease in the rate of a society's expansion 
can be seen most clearly in contemporary Western civiliza- 
tion. In this society the economic system produces three 

140 The Evolution of Civilizations 

kinds of goods: (a) consumers' goods and services, (b) 
capital goods, which cannot be consumed but which can be 
used to make consumers' goods, and (c) government goods 
and services, including armaments. In producing each kind 
of goods, the factors of production, such as land, labor, ma- 
terials, capital, managerial skills, entrepreneurial enterprise, 
legal fees, distribution costs, and so forth, must be used and 
paid for. These costs, including profits for entrepreneurs, 
have a double aspect. On the one side they represent the 
costs of producing the goods, and thus determine the final 
selling price of the goods; this must be sufficiently high to 
cover these costs. But, on the other hand, these costs repre- 
sent the incomes of those who receive them and thus repre- 
sent the purchasing power available to buy the goods offered 
for sale. If we look, for a moment, only at the flow of con- 
sumers' goods, we see that this flow of goods is offered for 
sale at a price that, by just covering the costs of the goods, 
is just equivalent to the purchasing power distributed to the 
economic community as incomes available for buying these 
goods. But, of course, some incomes are saved. These sav- 
ings reduce the flow of purchasing power below the level of 
the flow of consumers' goods at prices sufficient to cover 
costs of these goods. Thus there is not sufficient purchasing 
power available to buy the goods being offered at the price 
being asked, and either goods must go unsold or prices must 
fall, unless the money which was held back as savings ap- 
pears in the market as purchasing power for consumers' 
goods. Traditionally, this reappearance of savings as pur- 
chasing power in the market occurred through investment — 
that is, as expenditures for the factors of production to be 
used to make capital goods. This process provided the pur- 

Historical Change in Civilizations • 141 

chasing power needed to permit the flow of consumers' 
goods to go to consumers because investment distributed 
rent, salaries, wages, interest, profits, and such to the com- 
munity to form incomes and thus available purchasing 
power but did not demand purchasing power from the 
economic community because the producers' goods created 
by these expenditures were not offered for sale to consumers, 
as consumers goods were, but, if sold at all, were merely 
exchanged for the savings of investors. This whole relation- 
ship means that our modern economic system cannot pro- 
duce and consume what it produces unless it also invests 
(that is, expands). 

After centuries of expansion our society is now organized 
so that it cannot subsist; it must expand or it will collapse. 
This relationship might be expressed in the rule that, unless 
savings are invested in producers' goods, there will not be 
sufficient purchasing power to buy the consumers' goods 
that are being produced. Of course, as this problem has 
become increasingly acute in the contemporary period, a 
third factor has intervened: government spending. Such 
government spending provides purchasing power just as 
investment does. When the factors of production are mobi- 
lized at government cost to make a nuclear submarine, the 
community obtains incomes available as purchasing power, 
and no subsequent claim on this purchasing power is made 
by government action, since the submarine is not offered 
for sale. Of course, insofar as this government spending is 
covered by taxes levied on consumers' purchasing power 
there is no net increase in such purchasing power; but a con- 
siderable part of government spending is covered by taxes 
on savings (and thus operates like investment) or is not 

142' | The Evolution of Civilizations 

covered by taxes at all (and thus represents a net increase 
in purchasing power, an inflationary increase when savings 
are being invested fully). 

This rather complicated example of how an expanding 
society can become so organized for expansion that it enters 
upon an acute crisis if the expansion rate decreases is worth 
analyzing, because somewhat similar crises occur in all 
civilizations when the rate of expansion decreases. And such 
decrease is the chief result of the institutionalization of the 
instrument of expansion, something that occurs in every 
civilization. We shall see many examples of this and of the 
varied ways this process occurs when we make a more de- 
tailed analysis of the evolution of various civilizations. 
Our tentative definition of a civilization was "a producing 
society that has writing and city life." This definition is im- 
perfect because it is descriptive rather than analytical; it is 
also imperfect because it is not completely true. Western 
civilization about a.d. 970 had almost no city life, but still 
was a stage in a civilization. And Andean civilization, even 
under the Inca Empire, had no writing, but clearly was a 
civilization. It is now possible to offer a better, if not perfect, 
definition of a civilization: "a producing society with an 
instrument of expansion." 

Before we go on to examine the consequences when an 
instrument of expansion becomes an institution, we might 
point out that the surplus-creating organization that is such 
an essential part of any instrument of expansion does not 
need to be the only surplus-creating organization in the 
society. In all societies there are other, less significant, sur- 
plus-creating organizations than the one we have considered 
part of the instrument of expansion. In Mesopotamian civil- 

Historical Change in Civilizations -143 

ization the significant surpluses were accumulated by the 
Sumerian priesthood from tithes and its own profits, but 
there can be no doubt that private persons were accumulat- 
ing surpluses from profits of private enterprise or from the 
earnings of privately owned slaves or even from voluntary 
restrictions on their own consumption. These kinds of sur- 
plus accumulation may be found in any civilization no 
matter what preponderance may exist for its "own" instru- 
ment of expansion. In 1850, when Western civilization was 
most completely organized on the basis of private profit, 
surplus was undoubtedly being accumulated, and invested, 
from government taxes or from private slavery. And we 
would not be surprised if the most socialistic civilizations, 
like the Andean under the Incas or the Russian under the 
Soviets, had a certain amount of private accumulation from 

These variant and incidental types of surplus accumula- 
tion are usually of little significance in a civilization, not 
only for their relatively small volume of savings but even 
more because they are not usually expended in productive 
investment but rather are likely to end up in luxury ex- 
penditures and are, thus, little more than postponed or trans- 
ferred consumption. In theory, however, it must be admitted 
that our statement that "every civilization has an instrument 
of expansion" could well be understood to mean that a 
civilization has at least one such instrument. Except for one 
dubious case, we do not know of any civilization, in its prime 
of life, that has had more than one significant surplus-creat- 
ing organization. 

We have said that an instrument of expansion, like all 
instruments, becomes an institution and that as a result the 

144- The Evolution of Civilizations 

rate of expansion begins to decline. This institutionalization 
of the organization of expansion, which usually takes the 
form of a decreasing rate of investment (rather than of a 
decrease in either invention or in accumulation of surplus), 
leads to a crisis. This crisis, which we have called increasing 
tension of evolution, arises from the clash between the de- 
creasing rate of expansion, on one hand, and the fact that 
people's minds and the organization of the society are 
arranged for expansion, on the other hand. Reserving until 
later our detailed examination of the forms this crisis takes, 
we might point out here that it usually gives rise to conflicts 
between the vested-interest groups that control the unin- 
vested accumulations of surplus (because they control the 
surplus-creating organization in the society) and are suf- 
ficiently satisfied with the existing social organization to 
desire no change and the great mass of the population who 
are discontented at the dwindling prospects of expansion. 
The growing tension of evolution and the clashes it en- 
genders can result in one of the three possible outcomes to 
the crisis. These are (1) reform, (2) circumvention, or (3) 
reaction. We speak of reform when the organization of ex- 
pansion is rearranged so that it ceases to be an institution 
and becomes an instrument once more. We speak of circum- 
vention when the vested-interest groups are left with much 
of their privileges intact and when a new instrument of ex- 
pansion (especially a new surplus-accumulating instrument) 
grows up alongside the older institution and takes over the 
latter's expansive functions. We speak of reaction when the 
privileged vested-interest groups are able to prevent either 
reform or circumvention and, in consequence, the rate of 
expansion continues to decrease. If the outcome is reform 

Historical Change in Civilizations j «145 

or circumvention, the civilization once again has an instru- 
ment of expansion and the rate of expansion increases once 
again. If the outcome is reaction, the decline becomes 
chronic. There have been several cases where a civilization 
has succeeded in obtaining reform or circumvention of its 
institution of expansion, as we shall see in our detailed exami- 
nation of the process of evolution in individual civilizations. 
The clearest case to be found is the evolution of our Western 
civilization, where both circumvention and reform have 
occurred. As a result Western civilization has had three 
periods of expansion, the first about 970-1270, the second 
about 1420-1650, and the third about 1725-1929. The 
instrument of expansion in the first was feudalism, which 
became institutionalized into chivalry. This was circum- 
vented by a new instrument of expansion that we might call 
commercial capitalism. When this organization became 
institutionalized into mercantilism, it was reformed into 
industrial capitalism, which became the instrument of ex- 
pansion of the third age of expansion in the history of 
Western civilization. By 1930 this organization had become 
institutionalized into monopoly capitalism, and the society 
was, for the third time, in a major era of crisis. A detailed 
analysis of these changes will be provided later. 
The process that we have described, which we shall call 
the institutionalization of an instrument of expansion, will 
help us to understand why civilizations rise and fall. By a 
close examination of this process, it becomes possible to 
divide the history of any civilization into successive stages. 
We have said that these divisions are largely arbitrary and 
subjective and could be made in any convenient number of 
stages. We shall divide the process into seven stages, since 

146 • The Evolution of Civilizations 

this permits us to relate our divisions conveniently to the 
process of rise and fall. These seven stages we shall name as 

1. Mixture 

2. Gestation 

3. Expansion 

4. Age of Conflict 

5. Universal Empire 

6. Decay 

7. Invasion 

Every civilization, indeed every society, begins with a 
mixture of two or more cultures. Such mixture of cultures 
is very common; in fact, it occurs at the boundaries of all 
cultures to some extent. But such casual cultural mixture 
is of little significance unless there comes into existence in 
the zone of mixture a new culture, arising from the mixture 
but different from the constituent parts. The process is a 
little like the way in which a mixture of chemicals some- 
times produces a new compound different from the mixing 
chemicals. In the case we are discussing, the new compound 
is a new society with a new culture. The contributing socie- 
ties may be civilizations or merely producing societies (agri- 
cultural or pastoral) or merely parasitic societies (with 
hunting or fishing). Of the millions of cases of such cultural 
mixture that are occurring all the time, only rarely does 
there appear a new society. And even more rarely does this 
new society become organized in such a way that it is a 
producing society with an instrument of expansion. In the 
rare case where this occurs, we have the first stage of a new 
civilization. The fact that there have been no more than two 

Historical Change in Civilizations -147 

dozen civilizations in almost ten thousand years of cultural 
mixture of producing societies will indicate how rare this 
occurrence is. 

Since cultural mixture occurs on the borders of societies, 
civilizations rarely succeed one another in the same geo- 
graphic area, but undergo a displacement in space. The 
process may be described somewhat as follows. Within a 
society, people have little choice as to the ways in which 
they will satisfy basic needs (or fulfill their potentialities). 
If they are hungry, they eat the food their associates eat, 
prepared in the fashion customarily used in their society. If 
they wish companionship, or a picture of their relationship 
to the universe or a relationship to God or security or shelter 
or sex or children or whatever they may wish, they obtain 
these desires largely in the ways and forms provided by their 
own society. But on the borders of societies there is a con- 
siderable mutual interpenetration of social customs, and 
there arise, accordingly, alternative ways of satisfying hu- 
man needs. This is, obviously, particularly true where inter- 
marriage occurs, and where decisions must be taken and 
choices made as to which customs will be followed. Such 
choices are imperative in regard to bringing up the children 
of mixed marriages. When this occurs far enough inside the 
border of a society for there to be a social majority and 
consensus, there is no real choice, and, if any effort is made 
to make a choice, the children themselves will preempt for 
the local consensus. But in an area of fairly equal mixture, 
or in an area of unequal mixture where the majority culture 
is declining and decreasing in prestige, a very real need to 
make choices arises. These choices in themselves are not 
very significant in forming a new culture, but two other con- 
siderations are important. In the first place, the many 

148 • The Evolution of Civilizations 

choices being made must be morphologically compatible in 
order to give rise to the necessary amount of integration to 
permit a body of social custom to arise. And, in the second 
place, a certain number of families in the same locality must 
make the same or similar choices. In this way a new society 
may arise. If this society is productive and if it becomes 
organized so that it has an instrument of expansion, a new 
civilization will be born. 

As a consequence of these conditions, civilizations have 
generally arisen on the periphery of earlier civilizations. 
Canaanite, Hittite, and Minoan civilizations arose on the 
edges of Mesopotamian civilization. Classical civilization 
was born on the shores of the Aegean Sea, especially the 
eastern shore, on what was the periphery of Minoan civili- 
zation. Western civilization arose in western Europe, espe- 
cially in France, which was a periphery of Classical 
civilization. And on other peripheries of Classical civiliza- 
tion were born Russian civilization and Islamic civilization. 
If the new society born from such mixture is a civilization, 
it has an instrument of expansion. This means that inven- 
tions begin to be made, surplus begins to be accumulated, 
and this surplus begins to be used to utilize new inventions. 
Eventually, as a result of these actions, expansion will begin. 
The interval before such expansion becomes evident, but 
after the most obvious mixture has ceased, may cover gen- 
erations of time. This period will be called the Stage of 
Gestation. It is Stage 2 of any civilization. In general, it is a 
period in which the society seems to be changing very little, 
and most people seem to have fairly stable status situations 
in the social structure. But, under the surface, much of 
importance is taking place and, above all, the process of 
investment and invention that will make possible the follow- 
ing period of expansion is taking place. 

Historical Change in Civilizations • 149 

The Stage of Expansion is marked by four kinds of ex- 
pansion: (a) increased production of goods, eventually 
reflected in rising standards of living; (b) increase in popu- 
lation of the society, generally because of a declining death 
rate; (c) an increase in the geographic extent of the civiliza- 
tion, for this is a period of exploration and colonization; and 
(d) an increase in knowledge. There are intimate interrela- 
tionships among these four. Increase in production is aided 
by expanding knowledge; the growth of population helps to 
increase production as well as to extend the geographic area 
of the society; the exploration and colonization associated 
with this extension of the society's geographic area is made 
possible by the growth of production and the growth of 
population, both of which permit people to be released for 
what are, at the beginning at least, nonproductive activities 
such as exploration; the same factors allow people to be 
released to seek knowledge of various kinds or to engage 
in nonmaterial activities such as artistic or philosophic ac- 
tivities, while the geographic expansion in itself leads to 
substantial increases in knowledge. This period of expansion 
is frequently a period of democracy, of scientific advance, 
and of revolutionary political change (as the various levels 
of society become adapted to an expanding mode of life 
from the more static mode of life prevalent in Stage 2). As 
a result of the geographic expansion of the society, it comes 
to be divided into two areas: the core area, which the civili- 
zation occupied at the end of Stage 2, and the peripheral 
area into which it expanded during Stage 3. The core area of 
Mesopotamian civilization was the lower valley of the Tigris 
and Euphrates rivers; the peripheral area was the highlands 
surrounding this valley and more remote areas like Iran, 
Syria, and Anatolia. The core area of Minoan civilization 
was the island of Crete; its peripheral area included the 

150 • The Evolution of Civilizations 

Aegean Islands and the Balkan coast. The core area of 
Classical civilization was the shores of the Aegean Sea; its 
peripheral areas were the whole Mediterranean seacoast and 
ultimately Spain, North Africa, and Gaul. The core area of 
Western civilization covered northern Italy, most of France, 
the Low Countries, England, and extreme western Ger- 
many; its peripheral areas included the rest of Europe to 
eastern Poland, North and South America, and Australia. 
When expansion begins to slow up in the core areas, as a 
result of the instrument of expansion becoming institution- 
alized, and the core area becomes increasingly static and 
legalistic, the peripheral areas continue to expand (by what 
is essentially a process of geographic circumvention) and 
frequently shortcut many of the developments experienced 
by the core area. As a result, by the latter half of Stage 3, 
the peripheral areas are tending to become wealthier and 
more powerful than the core areas. Another way of saying 
this is that the core area tends to pass from Stage 3 to Stage 
4 earlier than do the peripheral areas. In time the instrument 
of expansion becomes an institution throughout the society, 
investment begins to decrease, and the rate of expansion 
(although not expansion itself) begins to decline. 
As soon as the rate of expansion in a civilization begins 
to decline noticeably, it enters Stage 4, the Age of Conflict. 
This is probably the most complex, most interesting, and 
most critical of all the seven stages. It is marked by four 
chief characteristics: (a) it is a period of declining rate of 
expansion; (b) it is a period of growing tension of evolu- 
tion and increasing class conflicts, especially in the core 
area; (c) it is a period of increasingly frequent and in- 
creasingly violent imperialist wars; and (d) it is a period of 
growing irrationality, pessimism, superstitions, and other- 
worldliness. The declining rate of expansion is caused by the 

Historical Change in Civilizations • 151 

institutionalization of the instrument of expansion. The 
growing class conflicts arise from the increasing tension of 
evolution, from the obvious conflict of interests between a 
society adapted to expansion and the vested interests con- 
trolling the uninvested surpluses of the institution of expan- 
sion who fear social change more than anything else. Usually 
there is a majority of the frustrated struggling against the 
minority of vested interests, although usually neither side 
has any clear idea of the real issues at stake or what would 
give a workable solution to the crisis. All programs for shar- 
ing the surplus of the few among the discontented many 
are worse than useless, since expansion can be resumed only 
if the three necessary elements of an instrument of expan- 
sion are provided, and the dissipation of surpluses among a 
large mass of consumers will not provide any one of these 
three necessary elements. On the contrary most revolution- 
ary programs, aroused by the failure of the third element 
(investment), will merely make the crisis more acute by 
destroying the second element (accumulation of surplus). 
The only sensible or workable solution to the crisis of the 
civilization would be to reform or circumvent the old institu- 
tion of expansion by establishing again the three basic ele- 
ments of any instrument of expansion. Since the disgruntled 
masses know nothing about such things, and since the vested 
interests do not know much more and are usually concen- 
trating their energies on an effort to defend their vested 
interests, a new instrument of expansion, if it appears, 
usually does so by accident and through the path of circum- 
vention rather than by reform. If a new instrument of ex- 
pansion does come into existence, the civilization begins to 
expand again, the tension of evolution and the crisis subside, 
and the civilization is once again in Stage 3. 
The Age of Conflict (Stage 4) is a period of imperialist 

152 • The Evolution of Civilizations 

wars and of irrationality supported for reasons that are 
usually different in the different social classes. The masses 
of the people (who have no vested interest in the existing 
institution of expansion) engage in imperialist wars because 
it seems the only way to overcome the slowing down of ex- 
pansion. Unable to get ahead by other means (such as 
economic means), they seek to get ahead by political action, 
above all by taking wealth from their political neighbors. At 
the same time they turn to irrationality to compensate for 
the growing insecurity of life, for the chronic economic 
depression, for the growing bitterness and dangers of class 
struggles, for the growing social disruption and insecurity 
from imperialist wars. This is generally a period of gambling, 
use of narcotics or intoxicants, obsession with sex (fre- 
quently as perversion), increasing crime, growing numbers 
of neurotics and psychotics, growing obsession with death 
and with the Hereafter. 

The vested interests encourage the growth of imperialist 
wars and irrationality because both serve to divert the 
discontent of the masses away from their vested interests 
(the uninvested surplus). Accordingly, some of the de- 
fenders of vested interests divert a certain part of their sur- 
plus to create instruments of class oppression, instruments 
of imperialist wars, and instruments of irrationality. Once 
these instruments are created and begin to become institu- 
tions of class oppression, of imperialist wars, and of irration- 
ality, the chances of the institution of expansion being 
reformed into an instrument of expansion become almost 
nil. These three new vested interests in combination with 
the older vested institution of expansion are in a position to 
prevent all reform. The last of these three, the old institution 
of expansion, now begins to lose its privileges and advan- 
tages to the three institutions it has financed. Of these three, 

Historical Change in Civilizations '153 

the institution of class oppression controls much of the 
political power of the society; the institution of imperialist 
wars controls much of the military power of the society; 
and the institution of irrationality controls much of the 
intellectual life of the society. These three (which may be 
combined into only two or one) become dominant, and the 
group that formerly controlled the institution of expansion 
falls back into a secondary role, its surpluses largely ab- 
sorbed by its own creations. In this way, in Mesopotamian 
civilization, the Sumerian priesthood, which had been the 
original instrument of expansion, fell into a secondary role 
behind the secular kings it had set up to command its armies 
in the imperialist wars of its Age of Conflict. In the same 
way in Classical civilization the slaveowning landlords who 
had been the original instrument of expansion were largely 
eclipsed by the mercenary army that had been created to 
carry on the imperialist wars of the Age of Conflict but took 
on life and purposes of its own and came to dominate 
Classical civilization completely. So too the Nazi party, 
which had been financed by some of the German monopoly 
capitalists as an instrument of class oppression, of imperial- 
ist war, and of irrationality, took on purposes of its own 
and began to dominate the monopoly capitalists for its own 

As a result of the imperialist wars of the Age of Conflict, 
the number of political units in the civilization is reduced. 
Eventually one unit emerges triumphant. When this occurs 
we are in Stage 5, the Stage of Universal Empire. Just as the 
core area passes from Stage 3 to Stage 4 earlier than the 
peripheral area does, so the core area comes to be conquered 
by a single state before the whole civilization is conquered 
by the universal empire. In Mesopotamia the core area was 
conquered by Babylonia as early as 1700 B.C., but the whole 

154 The Evolution of Civilizations 

civilization was not conquered by a universal empire until 
Assyria about 725 B.C. (replaced by Persia about 525 B.C.). 
In Classical civilization the core area was conquered by 
Macedonia about 330 B.C.; the whole civilization was con- 
quered by Rome about 146 B.C. Western civilization has 
gone from Stage 3 to Stage 4 three different times. The three 
Ages of Conflict are: (a) the period of the Hundred Years' 
War, say 1300-1430; (b) the period of the Second Hundred 
Years' War, say 1650-1815; and (c) the period of war 
crisis that began about 1900 and still continues. In each 
case the core was conquered by an imperialist state: by 
England under Henry V about 1420, by France under Na- 
poleon about 1810, and by Germany under Hitler about 
1942. In the first two cases the old institution of expansion 
(chivalry and mercantilism) was circumvented by a new 
instrument of expansion (commercial capitalism and indus- 
trial capitalism), and a new period of expansion com- 
menced. In the third case it is too early to see what has 
happened. We may be getting a new instrument of expan- 
sion that will circumvent monopoly capitalism and bring 
our civilization once again into a period of expansion. Or we 
may continue in the Age of Conflict until the whole of our 
civilization comes to be dominated by a single state (prob- 
ably the United States). 

In the imperialist wars of Stage 4 of a civilization the 
more peripheral states are consistently victorious over less 
peripheral states. In Mesopotamian civilization the core 
states like Uruk, Kish, Ur, Nippur, and Lagash were con- 
quered by more peripheral states like Agade and Babylon. 
These in turn were conquered by peripheral Assyria, and 
the whole of western Asia was ultimately conquered by fully 
peripheral Persia. In Minoan civilization the core area of 

Historical Change in Civilizations -155 

Crete itself seems to have been conquered by peripheral 
Mycenae. In Classical civilization the core area Ionian states 
led by Athens were conquered by the semiperipheral Dorian 
states Sparta and Thebes, and the whole Greek- speaking 
world was then conquered by more peripheral Macedonia. 
Ultimately the whole of Classical civilization was conquered 
by fully peripheral Rome. In the New World the two iso- 
lated maize civilizations seem to provide a similar pattern. 
In Mesoamerica the core Mayan cities of Yucatan and 
Guatemala seem to have been overcome by the semiperiph- 
eral Toltecs and these, in turn, by the fully peripheral Aztecs 
of highland Mexico. In the Andes region the core area seems 
to have been along the coast and in the northern highlands 
of Peru. These cultures were submerged by a number of 
more peripheral cultures of which the most successful was 
the Tiahuanaco from the southern highlands of Peru. And 
finally, at a late date, not a century before Pizarro, the whole 
Andean civilization was conquered by the fully peripheral 
Incas from the forbidding central highlands. 
In the Far East and Middle East the same sequence can 
be discerned. The core area of Sinic civilization was in the 
Huang Ho Valley. This area was conquered by Chou about 
1000 B.C. and by semiperipheral Ch'in from the mountains 
of Shensi eight centuries later (221 B.C.). The whole of 
Sinic society was then brought into a single universal empire 
by the Han dynasty from its southern periphery (202 B.C. — 
A.D. 220). The Sinic civilization was destroyed by Hunnish 
nomad invaders before a.d. 400, and a new civilization, 
which we call Chinese, began to rise from the wreckage 
along its southern frontier. The core of this society seems to 
have been south of the Yangtze River. This core came under 
a single political rule as early as 700 under the T'ang dy- 

156- The Evolution of Civilizations 

nasty. Wider areas were added by successive dynasties of 
which the Yuan or Mongols were so remote that they can be 
regarded neither as peripheral nor even as Chinese (1260- 
1368); the Ming (1368-1644) were of southern Chinese 
(and thus peripheral) origin; and the final universal empire 
of the Manchu (1644-1912) was from the peripheral north, 
Manchuria, with its original seat of power at Mukden. 
The history of the Middle East provides similar evidence. 
We cannot speak with any assurance about the Indie civili- 
zation, but it seems likely that its earliest origins were in the 
lower valley (Sind) and are to be seen in the excavations 
at Chandu-Daro, while later it moved northward into the 
Punjab (upper valley) and found its universal empire in 
the originally peripheral Harappa area. After the destruction 
of this culture by the Aryan invaders from the northwest, 
the successor Hindu civilization began to arise (late second 
millennium B.C.) in the Ganges Valley. The core area of this 
new civilization fell under the political control of the local 
Maurya (ca. 540-184 B.C.) and Gupta (ca. 320-535) 
dynasties. Then, as Hindu culture spread over the whole 
Indian subcontinent, political dominance shifted to periph- 
eral powers such as the Gurjara-Prathihara dynasty (ca. 
740-1036), originating from Central Asiatic pastoral in- 
vaders, and a series of Moslem dynasties, mostly Turkish, 
at Delhi (after 1266), culminating in the universal empire 
of the Moguls (1526-1857). 

In the Islamic civilization a similar pattern seems to have 
occurred. The core area of this civilization is to be found in 
western Arabia. As its culture spread over most of western 
Asia and northern Africa, political domination fell to in- 
creasingly peripheral dynasties: the Ommiad Caliphate, of 
Arabic origin, ruled from Damascus during much of its 

Historical Change in Civilizations '157 

period (661-750), while its successor, the Abbaside Cali- 
phate, ruled from Bagdad (750-ca. 930). The Seljuk Turks 
ruled briefly (1050-1110) from Persia and were ultimately 
succeeded by the universal empire of the Ottoman Turks 
with its center in Anatolia (1300-1922). 

The victory of more peripheral states over less peripheral 
states during Stage 4 of any civilization seems so well es- 
tablished that it is worthwhile to seek the reasons for it. A 
number of these can be mentioned. In the first place, as a 
general rule, material culture diffuses more easily than non- 
material culture, so that peripheral areas tend to become 
more materialistic than less peripheral areas; while the latter 
spend much of their time, wealth, energy, and attention on 
religion, philosophy, art, or literature, the former spend a 
much greater proportion of these resources on military, po- 
litical, and economic matters. Therefore, peripheral areas 
are more likely to win victories. This contrast is quite clear 
between, let us say, Sumerians and Assyrians, between 
Ionians and Dorians, between Greeks and Latins, between 
Mayas and Aztecs, or even between Europeans and Ameri- 

A second reason for the victories of more peripheral states 
arises from the fact that the process of evolution is slightly 
earlier in more central areas than in peripheral ones. Thus 
the central areas have already passed on to Stage 4 and may 
even have achieved a premature dress rehearsal of Stage 5 
(with the achievement of a single core empire) while periph- 
eral areas are still in a relatively vigorous Stage 3. Generally 
speaking, military victory is more likely to go to an area or 
state in Stage 3 than to one in any later stage, because the 
later stages (and the more central areas) are more harassed 
by class conflicts and are more paralyzed by the inertia and 

158' The Evolution of Civilizations 

obstruction of institutions. Core areas generally have been 
ravaged for a longer period of imperialist wars. The combi- 
nation of these obstacles gives the inhabitants of a core area 
a kind of world-weariness (sometimes called a "failure of 
nerve") that is in sharp contrast to their own earlier attitudes 
or to those of their more peripheral rivals. Accordingly, the 
task of creating a universal empire is likely to be left to such 

It should be noted that in some cases, such as Egypt, 
Crete, or Russia, a single political unit has ruled over the 
civilization from its early history. This generally arises in 
civilizations whose instrument of expansion is a socialist 
state. In such a case imperialist wars are not so prevalent a 
characteristic of Stage 4, and the achievement of a single 
political unit (universal empire) is not one of the chief 
characteristics of that stage. As a result the stage may last 
a shorter time and cannot be so easily demarcated from 
earlier and later stages as can be done in civilizations where 
imperialist war and achievement of a universal empire are 
two of the most prominent marks of the stage. Absence of 
these items does not indicate absence of the stage, which is 
marked by its other, less easily observed, characteristics, 
such as decreasing rate of expansion, growing class conflicts, 
declining democracy, dying science, decreasing inventive- 
ness, and growing irrationality. 

These characteristics and the commonly observed 
achievement of political domination by a single (peripheral) 
state bring the civilization to Stage 5, the Stage of Universal 

When a universal empire is established in a civilization, 
the society enters upon a "golden age." At least this is what 
it seems to the periods that follow it. Such a golden age is a 

Historical Change in Civilizations '159 

period of peace and of relative prosperity. Peace arises from 
the absence of any competing political units within the area 
of the civilization itself, and from the remoteness or even 
absence of struggles with other societies outside. Prosperity 
arises from the ending of internal belligerent destruction, the 
reduction of internal trade barriers, the establishment of a 
common system of weights, measures, and coinage, and 
from the extensive government spending associated with the 
establishment of a universal empire. But this appearance of 
prosperity is deceptive. Little real economic expansion is 
possible because no real instrument of expansion exists. New 
inventions are rare, and real economic investment is lacking. 
The vested interests have triumphed and are living off their 
capital, building unproductive and blatant monuments like 
the Pyramids, the "Hanging Gardens of Babylon," the 
Colosseum, or (as premature examples) Hitler's Chancel- 
lery and the Victor Emmanuel Memorial. The masses of the 
people in such an empire live from the waste of these non- 
productive expenditures. The golden age is really the glow 
of overripeness, and soon decline begins. When it becomes 
evident, we pass from Stage 5 (Universal Empire) to Stage 
6 (Decay). 

The Stage of Decay is a period of acute economic de- 
pression, declining standards of living, civil wars between 
the various vested interests, and growing illiteracy. The 
society grows weaker and weaker. Vain efforts are made to 
stop the wastage by legislation. But the decline continues. 
The religious, intellectual, social, and political levels of the 
society begin to lose the allegiance of the masses of the 
people on a large scale. New religious movements begin to 
sweep over the society. There is a growing reluctance to 
fight for the society or even to support it by paying taxes. 


The Evolution of Civilizations 

This period of decay may last for a long time, but eventually 
the civilization can no longer defend itself, as Mesopotamia 
could not after 400 B.C., as Egypt could not about the same 
time, as Crete could not after 1400 B.C., as Rome could not 
after a.d. 350, as the Incas and Aztecs could not after 1500, 
as India could not after 1700, as China could not after 
1830, and as Islam could not after 1850. 

Stage 7 is the Stage of Invasion, when the civilization, no 
longer able to defend itself because it is no longer willing 
to defend itself, lies wide open to "barbarian invaders." 
These invaders are "barbarians" only in the sense that they 
are "outsiders." Frequently these outsiders are another, 
younger, and more powerful civilization. The following list 
of universal empires shows the barbarian invader that de- 
stroyed the civilization in question: 









334-300 B.C. 




334-300 B.C. 





1400-1100 B.C 




264-146 B.C. 


























As a result of these invasions by an outside society, the 
civilization is destroyed and ceases to exist. This Stage of 
Invasion is also a period of mixture. As such, it may be, but 
does not need to be, Stage 1 of a new civilization. This con- 

Historical Change in Civilizations '161 

dition was true of several of the invasions listed above. The 
invasions of the Greek tribes, which ended Minoan civiliza- 
tion, marked Stage 1 of Classical civilization; the invasions 
of the Germanic tribes, which ended Classical civilization, 
marked Stage 1 of Western civilization. 

The seven stages are merely a convenient way of dividing 
a complex historical process. This process is not relentlessly 
deterministic at all points but merely at some points, in the 
sense that men have power and free will but their actions 
have consequences nevertheless. In general, if cultural mix- 
ture produces a new producing society with an instrument 
of expansion we have Stage 1 of a civilization. Stages 2, 3, 
and 4 will follow inevitably. This means that, if a producing 
society has an instrument of expansion, saving and invest- 
ment will lead to expansion, and this expansion will eventu- 
ally slow up as the instrument becomes an institution. At 
this point, in the early part of Stage 4 there is considerable 
freedom since the institutionalized instrument of expansion 
may be reformed or circumvented. If it is, expansion will 
be resumed, and the civilization will again be in Stage 3. If 
it is not reformed or circumvented, reaction will triumph, 
and the crisis will become worse. The choice between reform 
and reaction is not, however, a rigid one. The last part of 
Stage 3 may be a continual series of minor reforms and 
circumventions to the point where the creation of new instru- 
ments just about balances the institutionalization of old 
instruments and expansion continues at a fair rate for a 
considerable time. Circumvention,, especially geographic 
circumvention, may force institutions that would not other- 
wise have reformed to do so in order to compete. Thus, for 
example, as the textile industry of New England became 
institutionalized, new, more modern plants grew up in the 

162- The Evolution of Civilizations 

South; the existence of these southern plants (a case of geo- 
graphic circumvention) forced the textile mills of New 
England either to modernize or to perish. On a more dramatic 
scale the whole industrial system of England, in recent 
times, has been in an institutionalized condition and has 
been faced with the choice of reforming, thus creating new 
economic activities and new economic organizations, or 
perishing from the competition of peripheral areas, like the 
United States, or semiperipheral areas, like Germany (or 
even other civilizations, like Japan or India). 
Because of such conditions as these, the whole first part 
of the Age of Conflict (Stage 4) is a period of crisis and of 
hope. Only when the vested interests create new instruments 
of class oppression, of imperialist wars, and of irrationality, 
and when these new instruments, in turn, begin to become 
institutions, does hope fade. Crisis becomes endemic in the 
civilization, and continues until the universal empire with its 
golden age is established. In those civilizations that had a 
single political unit from an earlier stage, like Egyptian, 
Minoan, or Orthodox civilization, the Age of Conflict is 
frequently of briefer duration because imperialist wars are of 
limited extent. The fact that these one- state civilizations 
frequently have a socialist state as their instrument of ex- 
pansion also serves to obscure the duration of the Age of 
Conflict because such a civilization has weak incentives to 
invent in its Age of Expansion and less dramatic class con- 
flicts in its Age of Conflict, thus serving to obscure the tran- 
sition from one of these stages to the other. 
In theory there is nothing rigid about Stage 5. So far as 
observations of past civilizations indicate, every civilization 
passes from the Age of Conflict to the Age of Universal 
Empire. That means that one state, probably a peripheral 

Historical Change in Civilizations -163 

one, emerges triumphant over the whole area of the civiliza- 
tion. But in theory it is at least conceivable that the com- 
peting states of Stage 4 might just fight each other down 
and down to lower and lower levels of prosperity and public 
order without one emerging triumphant over all the others. 
In such a case, Stage 5 might be omitted, and the civilization 
would pass directly from Stage 4 to Stage 6 (Conflict to 
Decay) without achieving any universal empire. Something 
like this may have been true of Mesoamerican civilization. 
In a similar way, it is conceivable, in theory, that a civiliza- 
tion could continue for a very long time in the Stage of 
Decay without passing on to Stage 7. For there can be no 
invasion to end the civilization unless there are invaders to 
come in. Egypt, for example, was so well protected by seas 
and deserts against invaders that its Stage of Decay lasted 
for more than a thousand years. It is also, in theory, conceiv- 
able that some universal empire some day might cover the 
whole globe, leaving no external "barbarians" to serve as 

This point leads to one final consideration, namely, the 
relationship of outside societies to any civilization. In theory 
again, it would seem that an outside society that was stronger 
than a given civilization might at any time come in and 
smash it. In practice, however, it seems that civilizations are 
in little danger of such an experience except early or late in 
their careers. In general, a civilization is in no danger from 
any society except another civilization from Stage 2 to 
Stage 6. In Stage 6, however, it is in danger from any society, 
even a parasitic one, as is clear from the destruction of 
Cretan, Classical, Hittite, and Sinic civilizations by non- 
civilized invaders. When two civilizations collide we may 
use the tentative rule that the victory will go to the one that 

164 • The Evolution of Civilizations 

is closer to Stage 3 (Expansion) but that neither one will be 
destroyed unless it is in Stage 6. In 492-479 B.C. Classical 
civilization, in Stage 3, and Mesopotamian civilization, in 
the last part of Stage 5, collided, and the former won; in 
336-323 they collided again, with Classical in Stage 4 and 
Mesopotamian in Stage 6, and the latter was destroyed. In 
264-146 B.C. Classical civilization in Stage 4 met Canaanite 
civilization in Stage 6, and destroyed it. In 711-814 West- 
ern civilization in Stage 2 was able to preserve itself against 
Islamic civilization in Stage 3; three hundred years later, in 
what we call the Crusades, Western civilization in Stage 3 
returned the visit to Islamic civilization, then in Stage 4, but 
could not destroy it. However, in 1850-1920, Western civili- 
zation, just reaching the end of Stage 3, again collided with 
Islamic civilization, now in Stage 6, and destroyed its uni- 
versal empire, the Ottoman Empire, and probably liquidated 
the whole civilization, a process that is still going on. This 
was only one of several civilizations that were in a similar 
stage and that have met, or appear to be now meeting, a 
similar fate. The other universal empires in Stage 6 that 
have been destroyed by Western civilization while in Stage 
3 are the Inca, the Aztec, the Manchu, the Mogul (in 
India), and perhaps the Tokugawa (in Japan). At the 
present time India seems to be in Stage 2 of a new civiliza- 
tion; China may be in Stage 1 of a new civilization; while 
the situation in Japan and in the Near East is still too chaotic 
to make any judgments about what is happening. Russian 
civilization, which began about a.d. 500 and had its period 
of expansion about 1500-1900, had the state as its instru- 
ment of expansion and was just entering upon Stage 4 in 
1917 when the reform of this institution gave it a new instru- 
ment of expansion. As a result, Russian civilization has been 

















o O &i 

O v, rN 
m sc o 

O C 3 
r^ rj f- 

— — 

it 0C 

7 7 i 

Q .Q Q 

O r, C 
ro *C 5* 


c -i- 










.2 .E 

"t — r* IS 

ex 5 ^ 

_c .5 
o ie 

*2% 7 B 

-. 6 
o I 











































«r> o 

7 7 

O v. 
O n 

r- r- 


















Is gs 

PC rr .^ 

.so £ - 




166 j The Evolution of Civilizations 

in Stage 3 for the second time in recent years, but it remains 
a relatively weak civilization because of its weak incentives 
to invention. A collision between this civilization, which is 
early in Stage 3, and Western civilization, which has just 
begun Stage 4, would probably be indecisive in its outcome. 
If Western civilization reforms and again passes into Stage 
3, it will be far too powerful to be defeated by Russian civili- 
zation; if Western civilization does not reform, but continues 
through the Stage of Conflict into the Stage of Universal 
Empire, the threat from Russian civilization will be much 
greater. However, by that time the new Indian civilization 
or the new Chinese civilization may be in Stage 3 and will 
present greater threats to both Western and Russian civiliza- 
tions than either of these will present to the other. The 
possible, but by no means inevitable, relationships of these 
four civilizations in terms of the relevant stages can be seen 
from the following chart. 


Western Stage 4 Stage 5 Stage 6 

Russian Stage 3 Stage 4 Stage 5 

Indian II Stage 2 Stage 3 

Chinese II Stage 1 or 2 Stage 3 

This chart is purely guesswork, because if Western civili- 
zation reforms in the Present Time (as appears highly 
likely), or if any revolutionary new technological discovery 
(such as the conquest of photosynthesis) is made in the near 
future, this whole relationship will be modified. 
Returning from the unknown future to the partially 
known past, we can conclude this chapter by a chart that 
gives, in a rough fashion, the chronology of the seven stages 
for the civilizations with which we shall be most concerned. 

The Matrix of Early 

W/ e nave a l rea dy sa id that civilizations are like crystals, 
' * which are frequently distorted by efforts to share the 
same crystalline material. They are also distorted by the 
noncrystalline material or "matrix" in which they are em- 
bedded. The matrix source from which diamonds are de- 
rived is great cylindrical pipes of friable blue clay that rise 
vertically from the remote depths of the earth to just below 
the surface. In this clay the diamonds are found embedded 
like currants in a fruitcake. Of course the diamonds in a 
"pipe" of blue clay are much less frequent than the currants 
in any acceptable piece of cake. In this they are like civiliza- 
tions, which are very infrequent occurrences in a matrix of 
time, space, and noncivilized cultures. 

The matrix in which civilizations occur is five-dimensional 
just as culture is. These include the same three dimensions 
of space, the fourth dimension of time, and the fifth dimen- 
sion of abstraction. Before we make any serious attempt to 
apply the seven stages of civilization, we should have a 
somewhat clearer idea of this matrix in order to understand 
the distorting influences it may exercise on the seven stages 
of normal evolution in a civilization. 

168- The Evolution of Civilizations 

The three dimensions of space in which a civilization is 
found include its geographic environment. Since we are 
primarily interested in our own Western civilization and its 
direct predecessors rather than in the New World or the 
Far Eastern civilizations, we shall speak here only of the 
geographic matrix in which Western civilization arose. This 
area, including Europe, northern Africa, and western Asia, 
was aptly called the "Northwest Quadrant" by the historian 
James Henry Breasted. Bounded on the south by the Sahara 
Desert along the line of latitude 20°N. and on the east by 
the northeast-running line of the Pamir, Tien Shan, and 
Altai Mountains, its western and northern frontiers are 
formed by the great arc of the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans. 
Within this great quadrant the land mass of Afro-Eurasia 
has the form of a letter "L" which has been rotated in a 
clockwise direction a quarter turn. The apex of this figure 
lies in the northwest, in Europe, while one limb runs east- 
ward into Asia and the other limb runs southward into 
Africa. Europe's position at the apex of these two lines has 
made it a mixing area, with the African influences more 
important in the prehistoric period and the Asiatic influences 
more important in the historic period. This mixing role of 
Europe has been modified also by the extreme diversity of 
Europe's terrain, which has given it a very convoluted coast 
line, creating numerous inland seas and semiisolated valleys 
that give onto the sea. The result of these two geographic 
influences has been to give Europe great diversity of both 
geographic conditions and cultural influences in a small 

The Northwest Quadrant falls into three zones, flatlands 
in the north and south being separated by the east-west 
spine of the Highland Zone. The Highland Zone is a broken 

The Matrix of Early Civilizations «169 

sequence of mountains and plateaus from the Pyrenees 
through the Alps, Apennines, Balkan highlands, Carpathian 
Mountains, Anatolian Plateau, Caucasus, and Iranian 
Plateau to the Himalayas and the line of highlands that form 
the eastern boundary of the Northwest Quadrant. North of 
this Highland Zone lie the Northern Flatlands, which begin 
as a narrow wedge in the Netherlands and run eastward 
across the Northwest Quadrant, widening steadily as they 
move eastward so that they are only a couple of hundred 
miles wide in western Europe but broaden to almost two 
thousand miles wide in Asia. 

The Southern Flatlands are opposite in pattern to the 
Northern Flatlands since they are broadest in the extreme 
west and are narrower in northeastern Africa and Arabia, 
finally falling below sea level in the extreme east to form 
the bottoms of the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean. 
This simple, and oversimplified, three-zone pattern of the 
Northwest Quadrant is complicated by a number of other 
features of which the most obvious are the inland seas, 
rivers, and mountain passes. One of the chief of these fea- 
tures is the Mediterranean Sea, which runs east and west 
just south of the Highland Zone. The geographic significance 
of the Mediterranean Sea, of course, is that it divides Europe 
from Africa, but its cultural significance is distinctly differ- 
ent because it has served to link its shores together rather 
than to divide them. This binding influence of the Mediter- 
ranean in the cultural sphere lasted for over 4,000 years, 
from the first establishment of distant maritime travel about 
3500 B.C. to the Arab conquest of North Africa and the 
Near East about a.d. 700. During this period the techniques 
of water transportation were far more efficient and cheaper 
than the techniques of land travel. This superiority of move- 

170 • The Evolution of Civilizations 

ment by water continued for more than a thousand years 
after the Arab conquest, the technological lag of land travel 
beginning to close only with the invention of the macadam 
road, the coach, and the railroad after 1750. In the thou- 
sand or more years after 700, the linking influence of su- 
perior maritime communication in the Mediterranean was 
counterweighed by the cultural division between Moslem 
culture on its southern and eastern shores and Christian 
culture on its northern and western shores; but in the four 
thousand years before the Arabic conquest the technological 
factor was not counteracted by any profound cultural 
differences, and the shores tended to be drawn together by 
marine communication into a single cultural system. At 
that time the cultural division was not along the Mediter- 
ranean Sea but on the mountain barrier running parallel to 
it to the north. Classical civilization, especially as it grew 
into the Roman Empire, was the culmination of these influ- 
ences. They were reflected in the term "Our Sea" {Mare 
nostrum), applied by the Romans to the Mediterranean, 
while the peoples north of the mountains (who were bio- 
logically closer relatives but culturally remote) were called 
"barbarians" for most of the Classical period. 
Less obvious than the Mediterranean were other geo- 
graphical features of the Northwest Quadrant, especially 
those serving as interregional connections. Of these links 
two of the more significant were the "Syrian Saddle" and the 
"Vardar-Morava route." The Syrian Saddle is the low pass 
across the Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon Mountains around 
the northern edge of the Syrian Desert just at the point where 
the Euphrates River approaches closest to the Mediterra- 
nean Sea. The mountains and deserts surrounding this 

The Matrix of Early Civilizations 


Three earliest 
civilizations shown thus i 

Major geographic features of the Northwest Quadrant (bounded by 
20° N. latitude, 80° E. longitude, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Arctic 

172- The Evolution of Civilizations 

"saddle" make it the only feasible route connecting the 
Aegean, the Mediterranean, and Egypt to the west with 
Mesopotamia and the Persian Gulf to the east. In a similar 
fashion the Vardar-Morava river valleys provide a route 
that joins the Aegean Sea near Salonika with the middle 
Danube. The importance of these two links can be seen in 
the fact that such significant innovations as metallurgy, 
alphabetic writing, and Christianity came to Europe by way 
of the Syrian Saddle and the Mediterranean, while the 
knowledge of agriculture first came to Europe north of the 
mountains by way of the Vardar-Morava valley. 
We have already said that the first civilization began in 
Mesopotamia before 5000 B.C. when people of the Neolithic 
Garden cultures moved from the Highland Zone down into 
the alluvial valley and were able to create permanent settle- 
ments because of the refertilizing function of the annual 
floods. These people are known as Sumerians. They were 
distinguished by two significant features. Physically they 
were a rather stocky, roundheaded people who seem to have 
worn closely clipped hair and no beards. And linguistically 
they spoke an agglutinative language related to Elamite, 
Hurrian, and other Highland Zone languages but not related 
either to the inflected Indo-European languages then forming 
on the Northern Flatlands or to the inflected Semite lan- 
guages already formed on the Southern Flatlands (Arabia). 
This difference in language between the Highland Zone 
peoples and their neighbors in the Flatlands to the north and 
the south (at least in western Asia) was also reflected in a 
difference of physical type. The peoples of both Flatlands 
tended to be longheaded, wore long hair and beards, and 
were less stocky in bone structure. The peoples of the 
Southern Flatlands (the Semite speakers) were less tall, and 

The Matrix of Early Civilizations 


174' The Evolution of Civilizations 

darker in eye, hair color, and complexion than the peoples 
of the Northern Flatlands (the proto-Indo-European speak- 

This sandwichlike arrangement of peoples on the triple- 
zoned terrain of western Asia seems to have existed when 
Mesopotamian civilization was first beginning in the cen- 
turies before 5000 B.C. and was still in existence two thou- 
sand years later (say 3300 B.C.) when the invention of 
writing and of bronze making marked the shift, at almost 
the same time, from the prehistoric to the historic period 
and from the Chalcolithic (or Copper- Stone Age) to the 
Bronze Age. In fact, the sandwichlike appearance of west- 
ern Asia was, if anything, increased by 3300 B.C., because 
by that later date the Highland Zone peoples remained 
agriculturalists in the double sense we have indicated, while 
both the Semites to the south and the proto-Indo-Europeans 
to the north had adopted the care of domestic animals (but 
not the planting of crops) and had become pastoral peoples. 
There were other, less dramatic, evidences of this sandwich 
arrangement. For example, both Flatland dwellers tended to 
be warlike and patriarchal, and, in religion, emphasized the 
power of masculine sky gods, while the Highland dwellers 
tended to be more peaceful, more matriarchal, and had as 
their chief deity a goddess of fertility and sex who resided in 
the earth. 

This triple pattern of language, physical type, and social 
customs must not, of course, be made too rigid. A certain 
amount of mixture and confusion of the pattern must have 
existed at all times. But there can be no doubt that some 
such pattern as this did exist on the three-zoned terrain of 
western Asia along the line of longitude 45° East at the 
moment when the invention of writing in Mesopotamia 

The Matrix of Early Civilizations «175 

marked the advent of the historic period in human history 
and the clear establishment of the first civilization. 
One of the principal tasks of Old World history is to find 
some explanation of this sandwich pattern of human society 
at the dawn of history. This can be done to some extent by 
the triple pattern of geographic terrain, but, while such 
explanation may be helpful in respect to social customs, it is 
not completely satisfactory there, and is completely inade- 
quate in explaining the distribution of languages or of phys- 
ical types of men. Accordingly, explanation based on 
geographic factors must be supplemented by inferences re- 
garding the events of the prehistoric period before 3000 B.C. 
In making such inferences we have the evidence supplied by 
archaeology, but this in turn must be interpreted in terms 
of the sandwich pattern to be found in the later, historic 
period. Unfortunately, the areal and chronological speciali- 
zation of most archaeologists and ancient historians has 
hampered them in making such inferences or even in realiz- 
ing the need for them. 

Before we present our own inferences on this matter, we 
should be quite clear what it is that we are seeking to do. 
We are trying to explain the distribution of languages, phys- 
ical types, and social customs of western Asia as the matrix 
in which the earliest, and later, civilizations of that area 
appeared. Specifically, we wish to explain the pattern of 
these along the line of 45° East longitude just before 3000 
B.C. This pattern can be summed up in the table on page 165. 
Some of this pattern can be explained in terms of fairly 
obvious geographic and social factors. The archaeological 
record shows that the earliest agriculturalists were Highland 
Zone peoples who had both domestic animals (goats, sheep, 
and cattle) and crop planting, at a time when the dwellers 


The Evolution of Civilizations 

in both Flatlands were still hunters. The earliest peasants 
were peaceful because there was a supply of adequately 
watered land available for occupation by the limited num- 
bers of peasants, without any need to fight for it. Moreover 
these earliest gardeners engaged in hoe culture (without 
plows), which was originally a female activity at a time 


Inflected languages 







Sky worshipers 


Agglutinative languages 







Fertility worshipers 


Inflected languages 







Weather worshipers 

when males continued to hunt. Later, as the development of 
sedentary life made hunting dwindle in significance, men 

The Matrix of Early Civilizations «177 

became animal tenders, but the food for both the men and 
their animals was a female product. Furthermore, the shift 
from hunting to agriculture provided a rising and more 
secure standard of living that made possible, as well as 
desirable, an increase in population. This was also produced 
by females. The upshot of all this was that the two chief 
desires of men, that the earth should produce crops and that 
women should produce offspring, became intellectually 
confused into a single mystery best summed up in the word 
"fertility." The reverence and desire for fertility led to a 
higher social and economic status for women and to the 
growth of new religious ideas quite different from the ani- 
mistic religious conceptions of earlier hunting peoples. 
These new ideas are usually associated with a belief in an 
earth mother goddess whose confused powers of sexual and 
agrarian fertility were revered for thousands of years after- 

The Neolithic Garden cultures were well adapted to the 
adequately watered hills, parklands, and valleys of the High- 
land Zone and, with certain modifications, were able to 
move into alluvial river valleys and across the loess and 
other semiopen areas of Europe and Asia, but they were not 
able to penetrate the grassy flatlands, both North and South. 
In many places these flatlands were too arid for neolithic 
cultures; in more humid regions the grassy sod was too 
thick to yield to hoe culture; but, above all, most grasslands 
were inhabited by savage, warlike, hunting peoples strug- 
gling for the right to live from the grass-eating herds of the 
flatlands. In the north these herds were mostly horses and 
cattle; in the south they were mostly antelope, camels, and 
asses. In both cases crop planting and the peasant way of 
life were excluded. 

178- The Evolution of Civilizations 

But the domestication of animals and, later, the use of 
metals were not excluded. In the period before 3000 B.C., 
both of these diffused from the Highland Zone to the flat- 
lands of Arabia and of the trans-Caspian steppes. Thus, at 
the dawn of history the peoples of those areas had made the 
shift from Stone Age hunting peoples to Bronze Age pastoral 
peoples, while retaining and even intensifying their warlike, 
patriarchal social system. And, naturally, their linguistic 
and physical characteristics remained as before. 
In order to explain these linguistic and physical character- 
istics of the three-zoned sandwich of western Asia, we must 
go much more deeply into the prehistory of the peoples in- 
volved. This will require some speculations about the origins 
of these peoples before they arrived in their respective areas 
of western Asia. In order to handle these problems, we must 
have a chronological system that will permit us to organize 
the population movements that brought these peoples to the 
places they occupied at the dawn of history. Such a chronol- 
ogy can be established in terms of climate changes. 
Once again we must begin with the better-known present 
and work backward into the less-known past. On the over- 
simplified picture of the Northwest Quadrant as a three- 
zoned geographic pattern, we should like to superimpose 
an equally simplified climate picture of a six-zoned pattern. 
This pattern is most clear on the western, oceanic border 
of the Northwest Quadrant, and is modified considerably 
farther east by the influence of high altitudes and continental 
land masses. From north to south the six zones are: 

1. arctic 

2. cyclonic rainfall 

3. Mediterranean 

The Matrix of Early Civilizations -179 

4. desert 

5. subequatorial 

6. equatorial (or tropical) 

The nature of these six zones is well known, but the 
influences that they have exercised throughout history on 
the matrix of civilizations is not generally recognized. The 
arctic, or polar, climate is one of almost permanent frost. 
South of it the zone of cyclonic storms has adequate rainfall, 
coming from the west and equally distributed throughout 
the year. The third zone with Mediterranean climate and 
the fifth zone with subequatorial climate are both transition 
zones and have rain in half of the year and drought in the 
other half. They have the significant difference that the 
Mediterranean zone gets rainfall in the winter with drought 
in the summer, while the subequatorial has the opposite ex- 
perience with rain during the summer and drought in the 
winter. The fourth zone between these two is a region of 
permanent desert, while the sixth, or southernmost, zone 
of tropical climate has excessive rainfall throughout the 

The zone of equatorial rainfall is the area of low atmo- 
spheric pressure directly below the vertical rays of the sun. 
Because of the seasonal tipping of the earth on its axis, this 
area of vertical rays and of rainfall moves northward as far 
as the Tropic of Cancer in June and southward as far as the 
Tropic of Capricorn in December. It is this northward exten- 
sion of the tropical area that creates the subequatorial zone 
of summer rains in latitudes otherwise desert. The northern 
belt of adequate rainfall, associated with the eastward mov- 
ing cyclonic storms, also moves northward and southward 
with the sun, forcing the arctic zone northward in the 

1 80 • The Evolution of Civilizations 

summer and forcing the desert zone southward in the winter. 
This desert zone, holding a position between the cyclonic- 
rainfall zone of the north and the equatorial-rainfall zone 
of the south, is the area that is never reached by either of 
these rainy belts, while its northern and southern edges are 
reached by one or the other, in opposite seasons of the year, 
to create the two transition zones (Mediterranean and sub- 
equatorial) that we have mentioned. 

Since the rainfall of the Northwest Quadrant comes gen- 
erally from the Atlantic in the west, the eastern portions of 
the quadrant have much less moisture even in the cyclonic 
and equatorial zones, and it is frequently quite inadequate 
in the two transition zones between these. This really means 
that the desert zone in the middle widens considerably as it 
stretches eastward and that the eastern portions of both the 
Southern Flatlands (Arabia) and the Northern Flatlands 
(Kirghiz Steppe) are generally desert. 

The seasonal changes with which we are familiar are 
caused by the annual tipping of the earth on its axis. As a 
result of this, the arctic and cyclonic-rainfall zones move 
southward and then return northward, giving us winter 
followed by summer conditions in the Northern Hemisphere. 
For reasons we do not yet understand, this movement south- 
ward of the first two zones was greatly exaggerated and long 
maintained on four separate occasions during the last 
900,000 years. By "greatly exaggerated" we mean that arctic 
conditions extended southward as far as the Highland Zone, 
while the cyclonic storms followed tracks across the South- 
ern Flatlands over what is today the Sahara Desert. By 
"long maintained" we mean that these exaggerated winter 
conditions continued for tens of thousands of years, prob- 

The Matrix of Early Civilizations 181 

ably for as long as 75,000 years at a time. These periods of 
extreme cold are known as the glacial ages. 
There have been four of these glacial ages of Europe in 
the vicinity of the Alps, although probably fewer in some 
other areas. In southern Germany, where they have been 
most studied, the four glaciers have been given Alpine 
names: Gunz, Mindel, Riss, and Wurm. These names are 
sometimes applied to the glacial periods in other areas, al- 
though it will be just as convenient to speak of them by 
numbers from one to four. The periods between the glaciers, 
when there were temperate or even semitropical conditions 
in Europe, are called interglacial periods and are also num- 
bered. The period in which we live, following the fourth 
glacier, is known as the postglacial period, or, more tech- 
nically, as the Holocene. If we were to assume that a fifth 
glacial period might occur in the future, it would probably 
be more accurate to call the Holocene, in which we live, 
the fourth interglacial period. 

Each glacial period lasted for about 75,000 years. The 
interglacial periods were not of uniform length, the first and 
third lasting for about 150,000 years, while the second, or 
"Great Interglacial," lasted almost twice as long. If we add 
together the lengths of the four glacials, the three inter- 
glacials, and the postglacial, we obtain a total of about 
920,000 years. This period of something less than a million 
years happens also to be the period in which man in a bio- 
logical form somewhat like our own has been on this earth. 
The whole million-year epoch is called the Quaternary Age, 
while the major portion of it, during which the glaciers were 
advancing and retreating, is known as the Pleistocene. 
During the glacial periods when Europe was under arctic 

1 82' The Evolution of Civilizations 

conditions and the Sahara was under pluvial conditions, the 
former was an undesirable place for human residence, while 
the latter was well adapted to man. In the interglacial pe- 
riods when the pluvial zone had moved northward and the 
Sahara had become desert, Europe was a desirable place for 
human habitation, while the African flatlands became al- 
most uninhabitable. For this reason the pluvial and inter- 
pluvial periods of African history are even more significant 
than the contemporary glacial and interglacial periods of 
European history. In effect, man followed the pluvial zone 
north into Europe and south into Africa four times during 
the Pleistocene era. Of course, the movement of people was 
considerably less than this implies. In reality, relatively few 
persons followed the rain belt north and south, and these 
moved so slowly that they were probably unaware that they 
were moving. As Africa became drier with the approach of 
an interglacial period, the grass became scantier and grass- 
eating game animals fewer. The human population, which 
had increased substantially there in the preceding, more 
lush, pluvial period, dwindled in numbers and moved both 
northward and southward in search of more adequate hunt- 
ing grounds. The majority, unsuccessful in this search, 
perished, either from lack of food or in combat with other 
tribesmen for control of the diminishing hunting grounds. 
Those who moved south mostly died in an effort to deal with 
the inhospitable tropical jungles. Those who moved north- 
ward had a similar fate along the southern shores of the 
Mediterranean seas, except for the comparatively small 
number who could find a way northward across Sinai and 
the Levant to the Highland Zone and the Northern Flatlands 
beyond. It has been suggested that the glacial age tied up 
so much water in the form of ice on the northern land sur- 

The Matrix of Early Civilizations 


North lalitud«* 

1 84 The Evolution of Civilizations 

faces that the level of the ocean fell sufficiently to create land 
bridges between Europe and Africa at Gibraltar and Sicily. 
It is quite true that sea levels were considerably lower dur- 
ing the glacial periods, but it is doubtful that this was ever 
sufficient to open trans-Mediterranean land bridges, at least 
for any very long time. 

This whole process of population growth and movement 
was reversed at the onset of a glacial period. In the preced- 
ing interglacial age the population of Europe, especially on 
the grassy Northern Flatlands, must have reached a maxi- 
mum because of the adequate supply of herding game ani- 
mals, while in the Southern Flatlands desert conditions must 
have reduced grass, animals, and men to a minimum. As 
the advancing glacier moved southward, preceded by the 
pluvial zone, living conditions in Europe worsened and 
population became reduced, either by emigration or by 
death, while the population of the Southern Flatlands, 
largely from more successful biological reproduction, in- 

It should be clearly understood that all these great 
changes took thousands of years and occurred so slowly that 
the individual persons involved could have had no realiza- 
tion that they were concerned with the processes we have 
described. They knew nothing of moving glaciers or rain 
belts and had no glimmering conception that they were one 
generation in a family line that was migrating successfully 
or was perishing locally. This is clearly one case where the 
historical events we describe were occurring to statistical 
masses rather than to isolated individual persons. 
Although migration was only a minor portion of the 
population changes of the Pleistocene, we may picture the 
glaciers as a great piston that advanced and withdrew four 

The Matrix of Early Civilizations - 1 85 

times, expelling population from Europe as it advanced and 
sucking it back again from Africa as it withdrew northward. 
This fundamental but oversimplified picture must now be 
modified by two other considerations. The first of these 
arises from the fact that glacial advance came down alti- 
tudes as well as latitudes, while the second arises from the 
fact that such glacial movements were not steady but fluctu- 

When we say that glaciers advanced down the altitudes 
as well as down the latitudes, we mean that glacial advance 
not only consisted of a southward advance of the polar ice- 
cap; it also consisted of a downward extension of the snow 
line on mountain peaks. The latter movement, on the north- 
ern side of mountain ranges like the Alps, Caucasus, or 
Himalayas, appeared as a northward advance of ice. More 
significant for human history is the fact that the lowering of 
the snow line closed mountain passes while the lower alti- 
tudes to the north were still habitable, thus trapping groups 
of people north of the mountain barriers in the face of 
the advancing Ice Age. These trapped peoples were able to 
survive only if they could adapt their social customs to liv- 
ing under glacial conditions. This would have required, as 
a minimum, the acquisition of fire and the use of clothing. 
Since these people would have been separated from the main 
stock of mankind in Africa for a long period, at least 100,- 
000 years, it is almost inevitable that they would have be- 
come changed in physical features and that these changes 
would be those such as shorter neck and limbs, chunkier 
body, thicker hair, narrower nostrils, protected eye sockets, 
and other modifications helpful in living under arctic condi- 
The development of such a distinctive type of man did 

1 86 • The Evolution of Civilizations 

occur, at least once, probably in eastern Asia north of the 
Himalayas, during the second or third glacial age. This type 
is called Neanderthal man. 

Neanderthal man was so different in appearance from 
most modern men that no observer would be likely to con- 
fuse them. His bodily proportions were quite different, since 
he had shorter legs and almost no neck. There were other, 
more technical, differences. His rib bones were rounder, 
rather than flattened as ours are; he had no real chin or fore- 
head; his eyes were protected by bony eye ridges along the 
brows; and his head was attached to the front rather than to 
the top of the last vertebra. 

Because of these differences, Neanderthal man is fre- 
quently regarded as a different species from modern man, 
or Homo sapiens. But he is more correctly regarded as a 
variety, since the critical mark of species difference, inability 
to interbreed to produce fertile offspring, was not true of 
the Neanderthal and Homo sapiens types. It is now generally 
recognized that these two were able to interbreed and leave 
descendants on those rare occasions when they encountered 
each other along the margins of their customary habitats. 
Such encounters were on the margins of their ranges be- 
cause Homo sapiens lived under temperate conditions, while 
Neanderthal man lived under semiglacial conditions. They 
both lived in Europe but at different times. Homo sapiens 
retreated to Africa when Europe was glacial, thus abandon- 
ing Europe to Neanderthal man, while the latter retreated 
northeastward toward Asia, where he had originated, as the 
interglacial period commenced. Just as we associated the 
movements of Homo sapiens with the movements of a 
glacial piston that ejected him from Europe or sucked him 
back from Africa, so we could associate the movements of 
the same piston with Neanderthal man, who came into 

The Matrix of Early Civilizations 187 

Europe with the glacier and retreated with it toward north- 
ern Asia when it departed. 

Because of the conceit of normal egotism, it is customary 
to regard Homo sapiens as of higher intellectual capacity 
than Neanderthal man. This is a matter on which real evi- 
dence is scanty, but the evidence that is available would 
clearly indicate that Neanderthal man was at least as intel- 
ligent as Homo sapiens. This evidence includes the follow- 
ing: Neanderthal man possessed both fire and clothing, 
necessities for glacial living, before Homo sapiens did. He 
seems to have buried his dead, leaving with the body equip- 
ment needed in some future life, at an earlier period, thus 
giving evidence of an earlier recognition of spiritual values. 
His tools were frequently made in greater variety and with 
somewhat greater skill, and include the earliest compound 
tools (in which the blade and handle were separate pieces). 
But these achievements, which might be interpreted to indi- 
cate a fairly high level of brain power, apparently do not 
indicate sufficient mental flexibility to permit Neanderthal 
man to survive the ending of glacial conditions. By adapting 
his way of life so successfully to glacial conditions and to the 
pursuit of the great glacial mammals such as mammoths, 
Neanderthal man made his way of life too rigid to permit 
him to exist under postglacial conditions when such mam- 
mals became extinct. 

We have suggested that Neanderthal man developed as 
an offshoot from the main line of human evolution by being 
trapped by a glacial age north of the mountains in Asia. We 
do not know whether the glacier that did this was the second 
(Mindel) or the third (Riss), but it is clear that Neander- 
thal man was alone in Europe during the early portion of 
the fourth, Wurm, glacier. 
The fourth glacier had two icy peaks known as Wurm I 

188 • The Evolution of Civilizations 

and Wurm II. The interval between them, known as Achen, 
occurred when the glacier withdrew part way and then re- 
turned with full intensity in the phase called Wurm II (or 
Buhl). The withdrawal of Wurm I gave rise to the usual 
population movements that we have posited of a glacial 
retreat, Neanderthal man withdrawing toward Asia while 
Homo sapiens began to move to Europe from Africa. With 
the return of Wurm II, this process was reversed; but this 
time, probably for the first time, some Homo sapiens groups 
were able to remain in Europe under glacial conditions by 
adopting the techniques of fire, fur clothing, and cave dwell- 
ing that had been developed by Neanderthal man. Thus, 
for the first time, especially during the early stages of the 
withdrawal of Wurm II, Homo sapiens and Neanderthal 
man came into close biological contact, with consequent 
interbreeding. This occurred on the fringes of Asia and 
Europe, north and east of the Mediterranean Sea, and may 
have occurred south of the sea in parts of North Africa. As 
a consequence, the early postglacial period found three 
human types in the Northwest Quadrant, Neanderthal in 
northern Europe retreating toward Asia, Homo sapiens in 
the Southern Flatlands moving toward Asia and Europe 
(largely by way of the Levant), and a mixed group in be- 
tween, chiefly in the Highland Zone of the Caucasus and 
Iran. It is probable that we owe the later existence of a 
stocky, roundheaded, agglutinative- speaking people in the 
Highland Zone to the existence of this mixed group. 
This does not mean that the mixed group stayed in the 
Highland Zone. They undoubtedly moved along it, both 
east and west, even before the final glacial withdrawal be- 
gan. Then, as this withdrawal became definite, this mixed 
group moved northward and eastward, hunting reindeer and 

The Matrix of Early Civilizations • 189 

cold-loving animals. They were following on the heels of the 
pure Neanderthal, who was moving in the same direction, 
closer to the glacier's edge, and still hunting mammoths, 
mastodons, and other glacial fauna soon to become extinct. 
At the same time, other mixed persons remained in the 
Highland Zone and its adjacent parklands, hunting such 
temperate animals as deer, elk, and the great European wild 
cattle. This last group we may call by the name Alpine men, 
a term which refers to their physical type. They spoke ag- 
glutinative languages of which the only surviving remnants 
are Basque and certain archaic languages of the Caucasus. 
The other mixed group that followed the reindeer north- 
eastward were of a similar physical type, but may be called 
by the linguistic term proto-Finnish. These were the lin- 
guistic ancestors of the Ural-Altaic languages such as Fin- 
nish, Turkish, Magyar, Mongolian, and probably Chinese 
(now greatly modified by new vocabulary and the isolation 
of the meaningful syllables whose gluing together is one of 
the chief features of agglutinative languages). These lan- 
guages are frequently called Ural-Altaic because they were 
centered, in historic times, in the area between the Ural and 
Altai mountains just east of the center from which the 
Indo-European (inflected) languages dispersed. 
The early postglacial dispersal of agglutinative- speaking 
roundheads on the heels of the departing Neanderthal was 
soon disrupted by the arrival of a new wave from Africa. 
During Wurm II the Sahara grasslands had built up a fairly 
numerous population of the familiar Mediterranean physi- 
cal type: longheaded, slim-boned, rather dark-skinned, with 
dark eyes and hair. The appearance of postglacial arid 
conditions in the central Sahara split this group, pushing 
some southward toward the southern grasslands of the 

190' The Evolution of Civilizations 

subequatorial climate zone and driving the rest northward 
toward the retreating belt of cyclonic storms. The group 
that moved southward mixed with earlier travelers in that 
direction, became darker- skinned and taller, while remaining 
longheaded, giving rise to negroid groups. The group that 
moved northward eventually crossed the Sinai Peninsula 
and the Levant. Those who remained in Arabia became the 
ancestors of the longheaded, slim speakers of inflected lan- 
guages whom we call Semites. Those who continued north- 
ward, across the Caucasus into the Northern Flatlands, 
became the ancestors of the longheaded, slim speakers of in- 
flected languages whom we call Indo-Europeans. 
The latter group, the proto-Indo-Europeans, moved 
slowly northwestward, becoming taller and paler- skinned 
as they moved. They drove a wedge of tall, inflected-lan- 
guage longheads between the agglutinative- speaking pro to- 
Finnish to the northeast and the agglutinative- speaking 
Alpines in the Highland Zone to the south and southwest. At 
a fairly recent date, in the northwestern extremity of their 
range, these intrusive Indo-European speakers became very 
tall, blond, fair- skinned, and blue-eyed in that Scandinavian 
type known as Nordic. Their ancestors remaining on the 
southeastern steppes stayed much less Nordic in physical 
type, since that type is an extreme aberrant probably caused 
by the lessened amounts of ultraviolet radiations in the 
cloud- shrouded northwestern sunlight. 

Thus in the immediate postglacial period, during a rather 
dry and cold climate, the Northwest Quadrant had seven 
different types of peoples distributed in rough bands from 
the extreme northeast in Asia to the extreme southwest in 
Africa. These bands were the following: (1) Neanderthal, 
moving to extinction on the shores of the Arctic Ocean; 
(2) a mixed group of agglutinative- speaking roundheads 

The Matrix of Early Civilizations 


i * ' 

.' Bel. «,' w<n<«> ia:ns i^? ? t Sw"E--na£ #@S^ " * * 

^•'-•^•t^:•'' : '.l- : --' : ^'4V.•v:^«^^Nm 1 ? ™Sf~?« 

^ / ■<"- ■<-' '\ t J. 

Population movements (10,000-6000 B.C.) following northward re- 
treat of glacier and rain belts with the consequent appearance and 
growth of the Sahara 

moving eastward across Asia at a rather high latitude and 
leaving behind the ancestors of the Ural-Altaic peoples as 
well as those of the Mongols, Eskimos, and American 
Indians; (3) the longheaded, inflective- speaking proto-Indo- 
European group moving northwestward from the Kirghiz 
Steppes toward Scandinavia where it would develop into the 
Nordic type; (4) the Highland Zone Alpine, an agglutina- 
tive-speaking roundhead; (5) the Mediterranean type, an 
inflective-language longhead, on the northern fringes of the 
Southern Flatlands; (6) the negroid, a tall longhead, resi- 
dent in the subequatorial grasslands and the edges of the 
equatorial forests; and (7) the pygmy, a very short, yellow- 

192 The Evolution of Civilizations 

skinned roundhead, living in the equatorial forest itself. Of 
these groups the oldest by far is the last, since the pygmy 
goes back to a very early period, considerably before the 
six other types had developed, and probably shares, in that 
remote period, a common ancestry with the group from 
which the glacial-entrapped Neanderthals emerged. 
If we leave aside the pygmy as an ancient aberrant cre- 
ated by isolation in a sunless hot climate, and widen our 
field of geographic concern, for a moment, to include the 
whole Old World hemisphere, we might make three ob- 
servations. In the first place, the Old World linguistic pat- 
tern, in the terms we are using, is fairly simple. At the center, 
as a recent emergent from the Southern Flatlands, we find 
a great core of inflected languages divided into two main 
groups of Semite and Indo-European. Around this core, 
as an earlier emergent from the same prolific Southern 
Flatlands, is a band of agglutinative- speaking languages, 
also divided into two groups, the Ural-Altaic of central Asia 
and the Bantu of grassland Africa. And last, at the two 
extremes, in the Far East of Asia and in the west of grass- 
land Africa, are two blocs of isolating languages that prob- 
ably arose from the syllabic disintegration of the oldest 
agglutinative languages. It might be added that at the dawn 
of history (about 3000 B.C.) this pattern was further com- 
plicated by the Highland Zone block of agglutinative speak- 
ers separating the two inflective groups, the Semites and 
Indo-Europeans. One of the great events of the historic 
period has been the linguistic submergence of these Alpine 
agglutinatives by the longheaded inflective speakers, es- 
pecially by Indo-Europeans, as a consequence of population 
movements engendered by two acute dry spells of the his- 
toric period. 

The Matrix of Early Civilizations «193 

Our second observation is concerned with Africa. The 
earliest postglacial climate period, called the Boreal (about 
14,000 to 6000 B.C.), was dry and cool. Its dryness resulted 
in the depopulation of the African Flatlands, already men- 
tioned. In the subsequent wetter period known as the period 
of Atlantic climate (6000 B.C. to 3000 B.C.), there was a 
movement of population back into the area, chiefly from 
Arabia. The people who moved westward across Africa un- 
der these influences are called Hamites. Later, in the subse- 
quent drier period after 3000 B.C., a second and larger 
movement from Arabia into Africa was made by Semite 
peoples. Both of these peoples had profound influences on 
the negroid peoples of the African grasslands and on the 
complex mixed peoples of Egypt and Ethopia. 
Our third observation is concerned with a group that is 
now linguistically extinct and may appear to many as of 
little historic significance. These are the agglutinative- speak- 
ing Alpine peoples of the Highland Zone. This group, which 
usually receives only passing references in most histories, 
are, in fact, the most important group of humans who ever 
existed. They were the inventors of agriculture as we know 
it, using the same crops and domestic animals we have today. 
They were also the inventors of metallurgy (copper, bronze, 
and possibly iron) and were the founders of the first civili- 
zation, in the valley of Mesopotamia. 

From these last remarks it must be clear that climate 
change continued to determine the chronological pattern of 
events even in the postglacial period. This is correct. Fol- 
lowing the Boreal period (14,000-6000 B.C.) we find great 
cultural significance in a period of warmer and drier climate 
from about 2500 to about 1000 B.C. This period, called the 
Sub-Boreal, was preceded and followed by periods of more 

194 • The Evolution of Civilizations 

adequate rainfall. The earlier of these, known as Atlantic 
climate, lasted from about 6000 B.C. to 2500 B.C., while the 
later, known as the Sub- Atlantic, lasted from about 1000 
B.C. to about A.D. 200. In these two periods of more plenti- 
ful rainfall, the Northern and Southern Flatlands, especially 
in Arabia and on the Kirghiz Steppes, had a more plentiful 
supply of grass and thus supported more numerous herds of 
grazing animals and larger numbers of men. In the inter- 
vening Sub-Boreal period, as well as during the drier period 
after a.d. 200 (for about a thousand years), the increased 
drought reduced the grass and the grazing herds and forced 
the tribesmen who lived off these to migrate out of these 
Flatlands toward the Highland Zone and the Mediterranean. 
One of the master patterns of the chronology of postglacial 
human history in the Northwest Quadrant was this four- 
stage sequence of climate change that saw each of two 
periods of adequate rainfall and relatively sedentary popu- 
lations followed by a period of inadequate rainfall and 
devastating tribal migrations. The explosive qualities of the 
two drier periods following 2500 B.C. and A.D. 200 were 
intensified by the fact that the earlier periods of adequate 
rainfall, following 6000 B.C. and 1000 B.C., had greatly 
increased the density of population in the Flatlands and thus 
intensified the movement of peoples when the climate finally 
became drier. 

It should be noted that the dates given for these climate 
changes are those that apply to the Northern Flatlands (and 
thus to Eurasia) and that the corresponding changes in the 
Southern Flatlands of Sahara-Arabia occurred a little ear- 

The most notable consequence of the Sub-Boreal dry 
period following 2500 B.C. and of the post-Classical dry 

The Matrix of Early Civilizations 195 

period following a.d. 200 has been the outpouring of peo- 
ples from Arabia and from the areas around and to the east 
of the Kirghiz Steppes. During both dry periods the peoples 
who moved out of Arabia are called Semites. In the earlier 
dry period the peoples who moved out of the Northern 
Flatlands were Indo-Europeans, while those who moved 
out of this area during the later dry period were Ural-Altaic 

The Semites who moved out of Arabia because of the 
Sub-Boreal and post-Classical dry periods did not emerge 
in any constant or steady stream but rather came in waves. 
These waves went in three chief directions: (1) south- 
westward into Africa; (2) westward into the Levant (Pales- 
tine and Syria); and (3) eastward into Mesopotamia 
(Iraq). We shall say nothing more about the ones who went 
into Africa, but those who went into the Levant and Meso- 
potamia are too significant to be neglected even in the most 
cursory examination of Old World history. These two areas 
together form a semicircle, open to the south, around the 
Arabian Desert, and called by Breasted "the Fertile Cres- 
cent." This crescent, like a great horseshoe curving north- 
ward, has its western leg resting on the head of the Red 
Sea near Aqaba, while its eastern leg rests on the head of the 
Persian Gulf. Any movement of peoples out of Arabia by 
land would be into the Fertile Crescent. 

There have been four such waves bringing newcomers 
either into the Levant on the west or into Mesopotamia on 
the east. Although these emigrants were quite closely related 
to one another, they are usually known by different names 
in the two halves of the Fertile Crescent even in the same 
outward movement. 
The first wave of emigrants into the Levant, just before 


The Evolution of Civilizations 

3000 B.C., are simply called Semites, while their brothers 
who moved eastward are called Akkadians in the middle 
valley and Assyrians in the northern valley. The second 
wave, just before 2000 B.C., are known as Canaanites in the 
Levant and as Amorites in Mesopotamia. In the course of 
the second millennium B.C., various branches of these two 
groups became distinguished in different areas so that some 
of the Canaanites came to be known as Ugarites, Phoeni- 
cians, and Hebrews, while some of the Amorites came to be 
called Babylonians. The third wave out of Arabia brought 
people known as Arameans in the Levant and as Chaldeans 
in Mesopotamia. The fourth wave, which began about a.d. 
600, were known as Arabs in both areas. 

The chronological relationships among these various 
groups of Semites can be seen in the following tabulation: 



3000 B.C. 


Assyrians (N) 
Akkadians (S) 

2000 B.C. 



1000 B.C. 



A.D. 600 



Naturally movements of these Semite peoples outward 
from Arabia had profound effects upon the history of civili- 
zations. The Canaanites became the chief element in a civili- 
zation of their own, known as Canaanite civilization, which 
lasted for almost 2000 years, ending with the destruction of 
Punic culture by the Romans about 100 B.C. The Arabs also 
came to form a distinct civilization, called Islamic, which 
lasted about 1400 years and ended with the destruction of 
the Ottoman Empire in the twentieth century. The other 
peoples named (Akkadians, Amorites, Arameans, Chal- 

The Matrix of Early Civilizations • 197 

deans, and Assyrians) played varied roles in that most 
venerable of civilizations, Mesopotamian, which originated 
in the activities of a non-Semite people, the Sumerians, and 
ended with the imperial achievements of another non- Semite 
people, the Persians. 

While the Semite peoples were emerging from the Ara- 
bian desert to play the roles we have mentioned, even greater 
activities were being performed by the Indo-European peo- 
ples who were emerging from the drying Northern Flatlands. 
These peoples pushed out from the Flatlands in two waves, 
of which the earlier are called the Bronze Age invaders, 
while the others, 800 years or so later, are known as the 
Iron Age invaders. These two waves, shortly after 2000 
B.C. and again shortly before 1000 B.C., were both results 
of Sub-Boreal climate changes, and consisted of Indo-Euro- 
pean-speaking peoples. A third wave, after a.d. 200, con- 
tained a considerable number of other Indo-European 
speakers, notably the Germans, but the original impetus 
came from the pressure of Ural-Altaic speakers. Of these 
Ural-Altaic speakers who pushed out of the Asiatic Flat- 
lands after a.d. 200, the earliest were the Huns. These were 
followed, during the next thousand years, by other Ural- 
Altaic- speaking peoples such as the Avars, Bulgars, Mag- 
yars (Hungarians), Mongols (or Tartars), and Turks. 
A chronological table showing the movements of the 
Indo-European peoples in the two earlier waves originating 
from the Sub-Boreal climate is by no means as simple as it 
might be because these movements sent peoples into many 
geographic areas, in each of which they are known by a 
different name. The earlier, or Bronze Age, invaders, about 
1800 B.C., originated in the Flatlands north of the Caspian 
Sea and sent peoples into areas extending from central or 


The Evolution of Civilizations 

western Europe to India. The later, or Iron Age, invaders, 
about 1100 B.C., originated northwest of the Black Sea and 
sent peoples into areas from central Europe to Palestine, but 
not farther east. As a result we must include in our table 
nine different regions, as follows: 


Bronze Age Invaders 

Iron Age Invaders 



Battle-ax peoples 

Celts (1400) 



Terremare (1700) 




Achaeans (1800) 

Dorians (1200) 




Lydians, Phrygians (1200) 




Peoples of the Sea (1194) 



Mitanni (1900) 

Philistines (1190) 



Kassites (1650) 



Persians (1900) 



Aryans (1700) 

In Europe itself the third millennium B.C., especially the 
latter half of it, saw the most important changes in all 
Europe's history. The preceding period of warm, moist cli- 
mate had continued for over three thousand years, and led 
to the growth of thick forests that broke up the human in- 
habitants into small isolated bands dwelling in the rare open 
sites on the banks of rivers or on the shores of lakes and seas. 
The herds of grass-eating animals almost disappeared, and 
the highly successful paleolithic way of life in which man 
was a hunter of big game was replaced by a sedentary way of 
life in which man was a gleaner, a fisherman, or a hunter of 
small game in wooded terrain. This new way of life, known 
as the mesolithic, lasted about three thousand years (6000- 
3000 B.C.) and was also found on the western fringes of 
Asia and the northern fringes of Africa where the increase 
in rainfall was also evident. This mesolithic culture is re- 

The Matrix of Early Civilizations 



Bronze Age invasions from the Flatlands (3000-1000 B.C.) 

garded by most writers as a retrogression from the much 
more dramatic big-game hunting of an earlier period, but 
it seems to me that this is a mistaken point of view. It is also 
generally considered to be a local, European, development, 
which seems to be equally wrong. 

My own opinion on the mesolithic is that it was a period 
of progress to a higher culture, in terms of technology and 
human productivity, and that it was not a local invention but 
rather came in from the tropical forest zone where a some- 

200 • The Evolution of Civilizations 

what similar way of life must have existed for a considerable 
period. There is no space here for the rather technical argu- 
ments that would support this theory of mesolithic diffusion 
from a tropical forest area, but it is possible to mention the 
kind of evidence that would be used. 

In Pin Hole Cave in England, just at the level where the 
mesolithic evidence begins, was found an Indian Ocean 
cowrie shell. Obviously, if a shell could come that distance, 
some of the new techniques of mesolithic culture could come 
the same route. Or again, Europe's first domestic animal, 
the dog, whose origins seem to go back to southeast Asia, 
arrived just at the beginning of the mesolithic period. This 
animal, well adapted to small-game forest hunting and to 
the sedentary, trash- accumulating life of the mesolithic, 
could have come by the same route as the cowrie shell. 
Moreover, in the very late mesolithic period in Europe there 
appeared two other domestic animals, the fowl and swine. 
Both of these are of Asiatic tropical forest origin and thus 
have quite a distinct source from the later Highland Zone 
domestic animals associated with early peasant agriculture. 
These later animals, such as sheep, goats, and cattle, are 
grass-eating Highland Zone herd animals, and are not 
tropical forest gleaners as are the chicken and pig. 
Mesolithic technology had a much reduced concern with 
stone tools and a greatly increased concern with fiber cords 
and wickerwork. It included fish lines and fishhooks, nets 
and weirs, snares, bows and arrows, permanent huts of 
wicker and mud (or, as the English say, "wattle-and-daub"), 
basketry, canoes and paddles and, toward the end of the 
period (4000 B.C.), crude pottery and even some crop 
planting. The evidence for this new mesolithic technology, 
which has recently been described by J. G. D. Clark of 

The Matrix of Early Civilizations 


Movcnsnti of MstaJ* 
Movements of Agriculture 

Movements of metals (solid line) and of agriculture (broken line) 
to Europe 4000-2000 B.C. 

Cambridge University, is often to be found in shell heaps 
and trash mounds ("kitchen midden") associated with the 
mesolithic's sedentary settlements. 

At the end of the third millennium B.C., this mesolithic 
way of life was disrupted by a series of events that pushed 
European societies forward to new economic levels. About 
2700 B.C., a cultural movement from the Levant or south- 
ern Anatolia had arrived in southeastern Spain by way of 
the Mediterranean. This movement, sometimes called the 
megalithic movement, brought to Europe a number of cul- 
tural innovations, of which the chief was the use of metal 
(copper and bronze). From southwestern Spain, near Al- 
meria, these innovations spread to Europe by two subsidiary 
routes. While the megalithic movement went on to western 

202 • The Evolution of Civilizations 

Europe by sea, crossing the Atlantic waters and the Bay of 
Biscay to Britanny (2500 B.C.) and the narrow seas to 
Britain and Denmark (2200 B.C.), groups of Spanish origin, 
called the Bell-Beaker people, moved northward, across the 
Pyrenees and southern France, to northern Italy, Switzer- 
land, and central Europe by land. 

At the very time that the megalithic and Bell-Beaker 
movements were bringing metals to Europe from the west, 
the Neolithic Garden cultures were bringing Highland Zone 
peasant agriculture to Europe from the east. This innova- 
tion first appeared, according to the available evidence, in 
the Western Asiatic Highland Zone, possibly near Armenia, 
in the seventh millennium B.C. As we have already indi- 
cated, the search for fertile plots of semiopen parklands 
resulted in a steady diffusion of this culture and its peoples. 
Crossing Anatolia and the Aegean Sea, they were in north- 
eastern Greece by 3500 and then proceeded, by way of the 
Vardar-Morava route, to the middle Danube. While some 
descended the river to Romania and Bessarabia, where 
further passage was blocked by the warlike hunters of the 
steppes, others moved upstream across the loess lands of 
Hungary to Austria, the shores of Swiss lakes, and the Upper 
Rhine. Down the Rhine they proceeded to the lower valley 
whence they fanned out, going eastward across southern 
Germany and westward across northern France. By 2200 
the latter branch had crossed into England, and within a 
few generations the central European branch was moving 
into Denmark from the south. 

In this way both agriculture and metals had penetrated to 
western and central Europe before the onset of Sub-Boreal 
climate brought in the Bronze Age horse-using Indo-Euro- 
pean warrior peoples from the eastern steppes. The arrival 

The Matrix of Early Civilizations «203 

of these new people and of drier Sub-Boreal climate led to a 
drastic reorganization of Europe's societies. The climate 
change, by 2000 B.C., opened the forests of Europe, so that 
megalithic traders abandoned the seaways of the west in all 
of southwestern Europe as far east as the Adriatic and as 
far north as Britanny and, instead, crossed Europe by boat 
on the rivers, bringing Irish gold, Cornish tin, and Danish 
amber across Bohemia and southern Germany to the Dan- 
ube. Down this river they went to the mouth of the Morava 
where they split, some continuing down the Danube, while 
others turned south to the Isthmus of Corinth and the Gulf 
of Argos beyond. In Argos, the new commercial cities of 
Mycenae and Tiryns welcomed the northern traders and 
grew rich from their commerce, which continued on, by sea, 
to Crete, to Egypt, or to the Syrian Saddle. Those traders 
who had continued down the Danube crossed Thrace to 
receive an equally warm welcome in Troy, whence the trade 
routes continued across Hittite Anatolia and the Assyrian 
outposts in Cilicia to the Syrian Saddle and Mesopotamia. 
These European trade routes of the Sub-Boreal period 
were not disrupted, but were rather developed, by the ar- 
rival of the Indo-European warrior peoples in central 
Europe about 2000 B.C. From the neolithic peasant peoples 
these conquerors extracted food, and from the megalithic 
traders they extracted tribute, using the surplus accumulated 
to exploit the bronze-making resources of Bohemia in forest 
forges. From this system emerged a prosperous, barbaric 
(but not civilized) culture known as the Great Central 
European Bronze Age. This culture reached its peak about 
1400 B.C., with northern and western connections to mega- 
lithic Ireland, England (Stonehenge), and Denmark, and 
even more significant connections to Terremare Italy, My- 

204 | The Evolution of Civilizations 

cenaean Greece, and Hittite Anatolia. These southern and 
eastern connections were with similar Indo-European 
Bronze Age invaders in other areas. The whole system was 
destroyed by the onslaught of Indo-European Iron Age in- 
vaders about 1200 B.C. These later peoples exploded out of 
the northern Balkans with devastating force, and established 
in various areas the Celtic speakers of central and western 
Europe, the Dorian speakers of Greece, and a variety of 
Anatolian peoples, such as Phrygians and Carians. In the 
Aegean and Balkans these Iron Age invaders ended Cretan 
civilization forever and established a Dark Age that lasted 
for several centuries. This Dark Age, centering on the period 
1000 B.C., marks the transition between Cretan civilization 
and its descendant Classical Mediterranean civilization, 
performing a double role as the period of invasion of the 
former (Stage 7) and as the period of mixture of the other 
(Stage 1). 

Farther east the same Indo-European population move- 
ments performed different roles in other civilizations. In 
Anatolia the Bronze Age Hittite invaders who came in over 
the Caucasus across Armenia acted as Stage 1 of Hittite 
civilization (1900 B.C.), while the Iron Age invaders from 
Thrace destroyed and ended this civilization a short eight 
hundred years later, providing the limits to the briefest and 
least known of all major civilizations. 

The Iron Age invaders of the Aegean area, whom we 
have called by different names in the Balkans and in western 
Anatolia, drove fleeing before them a mixed group of earlier 
inhabitants of those shores, including Achaeans, Etruscans 
(Trojans), Cretans, some Dorians, and various dimly 
known peoples of the Anatolian shore. This mixed group 

The Matrix of Early Civilizations 


Iron Age invasions (1200-1000 B.C.) 

crossed the Mediterranean and became the unsuccessful 
Iron Age invaders of Egypt. In two amphibious assaults on 
the Nile Delta, one about 1221 and the second about 1194, 
they were thrown back by Egyptian forces under the leader- 
ship of the Pharaoh, Ramses III. Thus repulsed, they 
scattered on the Mediterranean shores to seek new homes. 
Egyptian pictures, which show their Viking-like ships, and 
accompanying inscriptions give us the most specific evi- 
dence we have of these tumultuous events. The written evi- 
dence tells us the names of some of the frustrated invaders, 
including in the enumeration such intriguing terms as Sarda, 
Sicani, and others. It has been suggested that subsequent 
settlements of these refugees in the western Mediterranean 

206 The Evolution of Civilizations 

gave Sardinia and Sicily their names and may have brought 
the Etruscans from an original home near Troy to Tuscany 
on the shores of the Tyrrhenian Sea. 

More significant for civilized history, however, was the 
fate of those Iron Age invaders who fell back from the 
unsuccessful assault on Egypt and turned eastward to land 
on the more weakly defended coasts of Canaanite Levant. 
This group, known to us from biblical records as Philistines, 
gave their name permanently to the area we call Palestine. 
Eight centuries before the Philistines came into the Levant 
from the west by sea, Bronze Age invaders had come down 
into the Levant from the north by land. This was part of the 
great flood of Indo-European pastoral peoples who broke 
over the Caucasus from the Northern Flatlands about 1900 
B.C. As this flood crossed Armenia to enter Kurdistan, it 
split into three branches. The branch that turned sharply 
west into Anatolia became the Hittites. The branch that 
continued south underwent complicated changes. Originally 
Indo-European, it pushed ahead of it a large mass of High- 
land Zone roundheaded agglutinative speakers who are 
frequently called Hurrians, and these, as the flood continued 
southward, began to push before them a mass of Semite- 
speaking peoples. Of these peoples, the advance guard, 
largely Semite, invaded Egypt, where they are known as 
Hyksos. The middle mass, chiefly Hurrian, spread over 
much of the Levant, and are frequently mentioned in the 
Old Testament as Hurri, Hivites, or even "Hittites." The 
driving rearguard of this movement, mostly Indo-European, 
settled on the Syrian Saddle as exploitative tribute gatherers 
and breeders of horses for much of the Near East. They are 
known as Mitanni. An offshoot of this migration, more 
Hurrian than Indo-European, moved down into Mesopo- 

The Matrix of Early Civilizations »207 

tamia and set up numerous local kingships known as Kas- 
sites (1650-1300). These peoples were gradually absorbed 
into the basically Semitic population of the river valley over 
the next few centuries. 

East of Mesopotamia, where the later Iron Age invasions 
did not reach, the influence of the earlier Bronze Age in- 
vasions are well known. In the first three centuries of the 
second millennium these peoples moved southward and 
eastward from the Caspian Steppes. Those who settled in 
Iran were known later as Medes and Persians, but played 
no great role in history until the sixth century B.C. when they 
took over political domination of Mesopotamian civilization 
from the Chaldeans in the last stages of that civilization. 
Further east the Bronze Age invaders of India, known as 
Aryans, destroyed the Indus civilization and instigated a 
period of turmoil that was Stage 7 of Indie civilization and 
Stage 1 of Hindu civilization. 

The events described in this chapter, performed on the 
three-zoned Northwest Quadrant within a chronology based 
on climate changes, form the matrix in which the earliest 
civilizations evolved. These events, examined in detail with 
careful attention to brief periods or to small areas, probably 
seem very confused. But organized in terms of the whole 
history of the Quadrant during the Quaternary Age, as we 
have tried to do, these events begin to assume relatively 
simple patterns. During the Pleistocene period there came 
into existence the triple-layered linguistic and physical pat- 
tern that we have described. During the Holocene this pat- 
tern was somewhat complicated, but the chief event was the 
invention of agriculture, metallurgy, and civilized living by 
the Highland Zone peoples and the subsequent linguistic and 
cultural submergence of these peoples by inflective- speaking 

208 The Evolution of Civilizations 

longheaded pastoralists pushed in waves from the Flatlands 
by the two postglacial dry periods. One of the chief results 
of this process, a result seen perhaps most clearly in Europe, 
was to create a political and social structure in which 
patriarchal, warlike, horse-loving, sky-worshiping, honor- 
seeking Indo-Europeans were established as a ruling class 
over peaceful, earth-loving, fertility-dominated, female- 
oriented peasant peoples. This pattern, first established 
in central Europe almost four thousand years ago, was not 
destroyed, in spite of Rome, Christianity, and later migra- 
tions, until the appearance of industrialized urban society in 
the last four generations. 

Mesopotamia!! Civilization 

'T'he degree to which civilizations conform to the seven- 
-*- stage pattern, and the distortions made in these stages 
by the matrix in which each civilization is embedded, can 
be seen by examining the historical evolution of various 
civilizations. In this chapter we shall try to do this for the 
first civilization that ever existed, the one founded by the 
Sumerians in the valley of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. 
We have pointed out that the peasants of the Neolithic 
Garden cultures practiced shifting cultivation, tilling the soil 
in an area for seven or eight years until the fertility of their 
fields was reduced sufficiently to curtail their crop yields and 
make it advantageous to abandon their huts and move on a 
short distance to more productive fields. In general these 
peasant peoples followed the hilly edges of the Highland 
Zone, avoiding heavily forested areas or the steeper slopes, 
and clinging rather to the lower valleys, parklands, or loess 
lands. Although they could cut down forest trees, it was 
easier to use more open areas; above all, it was necessary to 
settle near water, either from springs or from local streams. 
Eventually some of these peoples came into the alluvial 
river valleys, including that of the Tigris-Euphrates system. 

210 • The Evolution of Civilizations 

Here conditions were quite different from what they were 
on the flanks of the hills above these streams. The annual 
flood, whose sediment replaced the nutritive elements taken 
from the soil by cropping, made possible, for the first time, 
permanent settlements and thus the foundation of city life 
and civilized living. But the same flood that made the valley 
fertile made living in it dangerous and precarious. It takes 
an imaginative effort on our part to picture the minds of 
these early peasants who were ignorant of what we take to 
be self-evident. They had no calendars or other methods for 
keeping track of time; in fact they hardly recognized the 
existence of time as we know it. They knew nothing of the 
year or of the movements of the earth that determine it; 
they had no knowledge of the causes of the flood and, at the 
beginning, may not even have recognized that it was 
periodic. Above all, they could not have imagined any con- 
nection between the movements of the sun and the arrival 
of the flood. 

Undoubtedly, as can be seen in the archaeological evi- 
dence, the flood struck unexpectedly and brought destruc- 
tion, death, and fear, along with its fertilizing sediment. At 
Ur, in the lower valley, Sir Leonard Woolley found evidence 
of human residence both below and above a layer of flood- 
deposited clay, from eight to fourteen feet thick, laid down 
by a great prehistoric inundation which had covered about 
40,000 square miles of valley. Sir Leonard believed that this 
might have been the Deluge of the Bible, about 3600 B.C., 
but this view has not been generally accepted. There is no 
need to accept it, for similar, if perhaps less devastating, 
floods must have been a frequent occurrence in these valleys. 
We have no knowledge of how the early peasant resi- 
dents of Mesopotamia dealt with this problem or with an- 

Mesopotamian Civilization • 21 1 

other, similar, one. The excess of water in the valley at one 
season was balanced by a deficiency of water during much 
of the growing season, so that irrigation was almost as 
urgent as flood control. For projects such as these the early 
peasant peoples lacked both knowledge and capital. No 
individuals, families, or small groups of families could find 
the economic surplus or the social organization that would 
permit them to construct such projects. 

Undoubtedly, for a long time, the peasant inhabitants of 
the valley must have lived a precarious life, perhaps keeping 
their homes on the higher sites that were less frequently 
flooded, while their fields were down in the flood plain itself. 
But eventually, possibly before 5000 B.C., a social organiza- 
tion capable of accumulating an economic surplus and able 
to direct its application to productive projects came into 
existence. The nature of this organization in the prehistoric 
period must be inferred from the evidence available about 
such an organization in the earliest historic period. At that 
later time, about 3000 B.C., in each city-state of Mesopo- 
tamia, the accumulation of economic surplus was in the 
hands of a distinctive social group, the Sumerian priest- 
hood; it arose from their control, in the name of the gods 
they served, of a considerable part of the land of the com- 
munity and of tributes levied, usually in kind, upon the 
produce of lands owned by others. The chief tasks of the 
priesthoods, at the later date, beyond their obvious re- 
ligious functions, were the study of the stars and the keeping 
of the records of celestial observations. 

From this evidence we might infer that, at some remote 
date, some unsung genius or, better, some observant family, 
saw a connection between the advent of the flood and the 
movements of the sun — two events that had not previously 

212- The Evolution of Civilizations 

seemed connected. This individual or family noted that the 
rising sun appeared at a slightly different point on the hori- 
zon each morning, finally reaching a limit where it hesitated 
for a few days before it began to return. We would say that 
the position at which the sun rose moves 47 degrees of the 
full circle of the horizon over a period of some 180 days 
or more. Thus was born a rudimentary idea of the solar year, 
the full duration of the sun's movement back to its starting 
point. In time these observers noticed that the flood always 
came about the same number of days after the sun reached 
its most southern rising point. With this information the 
observer was able to estimate roughly the day on which the 
flood would arrive each year. This calculation the discover- 
ers kept secret, for their own profit, using the knowledge to 
work on the fears and superstitions of their neighbors, try- 
ing to convince others that they possessed magical powers 
enabling them to foretell the arrival of the flood, or even the 
power to make it arrive. The original discoverers of this in- 
formation could hardly have told the arrival of the flood 
within a span of time much less than ten days. However, the 
fear engendered by the flood was so great, increased by the 
realization that the crops would fail if it did not arrive, that 
some, at least, accepted the discoverers' claims and yielded 
to their demands for tribute. The discoverers probably 
offered to reveal the time of the flood in advance to those 
who would contribute a share of their crops, or perhaps 
they even threatened to bring the flood or to keep it away if 
they failed to obtain promises of tithes from the crops of 
their neighbors. However skeptical these neighbors might 
be of such claims the first year, no more than one lucky 
forecast was needed for most of them to become willing 
givers. After all, in such an important matter, it is safer to 

Mesopotamian Civilization '213 

be on the right side. The ignorance of the majority made it 
easy for the possessors of this specialized knowledge to use 
it as proof that they had supernatural powers. Moreover, it 
was not necessary to convince a majority or even many of 
the neighbors. If any small number contributed, a surplus 
would accumulate which could be used, in the form of flood- 
protection embankments or irrigation ditches, to provide 
very concrete evidence that it was worthwhile to belong to 
the new organization. Thus came into existence the central 
institution of ancient Mesopotamia — the Sumerian priest- 

This priesthood became a closed group, able to control 
enormous wealth and incomes, and concerned very largely 
with the study of the solar and astronomical periodicities 
on which their influence was orginally based. With the sur- 
plus thus created, the priesthood was able to command 
human labor in large amounts and to direct this labor from 
the simple tillage of the peasant peoples to the diversified 
and specialized activities that constitute civilized living. 
Above all, this centralized direction provided the system of 
flood control and irrigation on which all subsequent progress 
was founded. Similarly, these priest-controlled surpluses 
provided the capital for the many inventions of the age of 
expansion of Mesopotamian civilization. 

1. Mixture 

Mesopotamian civilization began with a period of mix- 
ture, although this occurred at such an early date that we 
must, once again, work from inference. We have already 
mentioned the fact that the sexagesimal number system of 

214 j The Evolution of Civilizations 

Mesopotamia in the historic period must have arisen from 
a fusion of a decimal system and a duodecimal system, and 
possibly of a third element based on twenty. The widespread 
evidence for the very early duodecimal system, especially 
in the diffusion of the practice of dividing into twelve parts 
the wide band of fixed stars through which the sun passes 
in its annual revolution (the zodiac), and the association of 
this feature with painted pottery gardening would indicate 
that the duodecimal system was a characteristic of the High- 
land Zone neolithic peasant cultures. The decimal usage 
probably came from the Semite peoples within the Fertile 
Crescent. If a vigesimal system also entered into the mixture, 
it might have come from the south or southeast, for there 
seem to be, in the substrata of Mesopotamian culture, ele- 
ments of tropical forest origin from this direction. Of course, 
these tropical forest elements, including the use of the dug- 
out canoe and of certain vegetally reproduced plants (es- 
pecially the date palm), may have come into Mesopotamia 
somewhat earlier with the diffusion of those forest-dwelling 
traits that went to make up the European mesolithic cul- 
tures. The chief reason for attributing these elements to the 
period of mixture of Mesopotamian civilization is the very 
powerful one that no archaeological evidence for these ele- 
ments or for any human habitation of the lower valley earlier 
than the Neolithic Garden occupation of the upper valley 
has been found. Yet the fact that Mesopotamia received 
tropical livestock like fowl and swine about the same time 
that it received the Highland Zone herd animals, as well as 
the fact that neither came from the Semites, makes it neces- 
sary to postulate a third element, of southern origin, in the 
Mesopotamian mixture. This element may have come by 
way of the mysterious civilization recently discovered by 
Danish archaeologists on Bahrein Island. 

Mesopotamian Civilization '215 

Additional evidence for early cultural mixture can be 
found in the confusion that existed, in the early historic 
period, between solar and lunar deities. Sometimes the sun 
was regarded as a male god, less frequently as a female 
goddess; it was usually symbolized by a disk or a many- 
pointed sunburst (star). Usually the moon was regarded as 
a female deity, but occasionally it was considered to be male; 
the usual moon symbol was a crescent, but sometimes it 
seems to have been symbolized as a complete circle (thus 
leading to confusion with the solar disk). This ambivalence 
of ideas on these two heavenly bodies seems to have arisen 
from a mixture of ideas from neolithic peasant and from 
pastoral Semite sources. It seems evident that early hunting 
people were patriarchal, regarded the male as more im- 
portant than the female, and similarly considered the moon 
as more significant than the sun. The changes of the moon 
were more easily observed than any changes in the sun's 
position would be to hunting people (especially at low lati- 
tudes), and the use of the moon, rather than the sun, for 
hunting or fishing made it a much more significant object in 
their lives. Accordingly, almost all early hunting people 
told time by the moon, and many of them considered it to 
be a male, if not a deity; the sun would obviously be the 
moon's consort, and thus female. 

When people passed from a hunting existence to pastoral- 
ism without any intervening stage of peasant agriculture, as 
the Semites did, these ideas were retained, since moon 
changes were very significant to livestock tenders. It is there- 
fore not surprising that the early Semite pastoralists knew 
the moon as a male deity, sometimes called Sin, and knew 
the sun as a goddess, frequently called Shapash. These ideas, 
like the Semites themselves, came into Mesopotamia. 
The Highland Garden peoples, as we have indicated, had 

216- The Evolution of Civilizations 

quite different ideas, since they regarded the female as more 
important than the male in economic and social life, and 
had as their chief deity the earth mother goddess. The sun, 
which was of secondary importance to the earth, was male, 
if it was regarded as a deity at all. 

When the neolithic peasant peoples developed civiliza- 
tions in the alluvial river valleys, males became more signifi- 
cant in their social, economic, and political life, and the sun 
became much more significant in their economic activities. 
In religion this served to reduce the earth goddess to a sec- 
ondary role and make a male solar deity of primary signifi- 
cance. But this whole development was much confused by 
the persistent intrusion of Semite religious ideas in which 
the moon was male and of more importance. The rather 
chaotic ideas on these matters to be found in Mesopotamia 
in the historic period were thus a consequence of cultural 
mixtures, and not a reflection of incapacity to think clearly. 

2. Gestation 

Since the Stage of Gestation is, by definition, a period in 
which nothing sensational happens, it is not an easy period 
to discern in the prehistoric evidence. If we assume that the 
first agriculturalists came into Mesopotamia about 6000 
B.C., we might postulate a period of mixture for about a 
thousand years and a period of gestation about half as long. 
In this period a new way of life different from the Neolithic 
Garden culture existed. Sedentary existence for centuries in 
one area would have reduced game and made hunting of 
little importance. On the other hand, especially in the more 
humid southern valley where there was abundance of grass 

Mesopotamian Civilization *217 

and reeds, the care of domestic animals would have in- 
creased in importance. As long as hoe culture continued as 
the normal method of tillage, this probably remained a 
largely feminine occupation. Thus the neolithic society 
where women generally tilled the soil and men hunted, or 
did little, was superseded by a new culture where men be- 
came active contributors to economic life, caring for do- 
mestic animals. As a consequence dairying became of great 
significance, eventually with powerful religious overtones, 
and the social superiority of women was reduced. This rise 
in the position of men was increased by the appearance of 
the Sumerian priesthood, which must have been a predomi- 
nantly masculine organization, since idly looking at the 
heavenly bodies or speculating on the relationships between 
their movements and earthly events is not something busy 
females would be likely to do. It would be much more likely 
to be found among watchers of herds than among those 
whose eyes are directed downward in daylight hoeing of 
the soil. 

The growth in importance of animal care may also have 
resulted in clearer recognition of the male role in reproduc- 
tion. Where the neolithic culture had regarded women as 
productive, both of crops and of children, the new Mesopo- 
tamian culture came to recognize the male role in production 
of both. This, in time, led to a shift in religious emphasis 
from fertility to virility. The symbol of the former had been 
the earth mother, represented by a female figurine, or simple 
torso, of clay, usually shown as pregnant and always shown 
as excessively female; the symbol of virility now came to be 
symbolized by the bull. This does not mean that the older 
ideas of fertility and the earth mother were abandoned, but 
that they were supplemented, and, to some extent, eclipsed 

218 The Evolution of Civilizations 

by newer ideas. The earth mother was given a son, who was 
also her lover, a heavenly bull, who was associated with the 
periodicity of the year and thus with the sun. As the sun 
came and went, and the crops died and were reborn, so this 
new male god of growing things and of life's vigor died and 
was reborn annually. His mother, like all women, was as- 
sociated with the moon in a monthly cycle. In time the 
symbol of the dying god became the sun's disk, while that 
of the earth mother became the moon, either as circle or 
as crescent. These two gave rise to a large number of paired 
symbols that together stood for the productiveness of natural 
processes of birth and decay. The sun bull became equiva- 
lent to the high-flying eagle or falcon, while the earth cow 
became equivalent to the crescent ship or to the earth's 
intimate, the snake. The life-giving subterranean waters of 
the earth mother were given symbolic fertility by represent- 
ing the dying god as a fish in these waters. Or, by a similar 
juxtaposition, the swelling mound of earth that stood for 
the productive female principle was made fertile by insert- 
ing in it a rod, or a pole, a pillar or a tree. In Egypt, where 
the mound of earth became a pyramid, the pillar became an 
obelisk. The pubic triangle, sharply marked on the torso 
figurines of the earth mother, was made into a more power- 
ful symbol of productive force by attaching to the triangle 
a rod representing the male principle. This combination of 
triangle and rod came to be regarded as an ax symbol, one 
of the most pervasive archaic representations of natural 
productiveness and power. 

These new religious ideas, in their generalized forms, 
were widely diffused. They included the belief that death 
was an essential preliminary to resurrection, both for men 
and for crops, and the idea that reproduction, of children 

Mesopotamian Civilization *219 

through sex and of crops from planting, were but two 
aspects of the fruitful relationship of two pervasive prin- 
ciples of fertility and virility. The deities associated with 
these ideas are known, in general terms, as the earth mother 
goddess and the dying god. 

Babylonian Ishtar had a consort, Tammuz; Egyptian Isis 
had Osiris; Syrian Astarte had her son Adon; Anatolian 
Cybele had a son Attis; the Cretan Rhea had a son Zeus 
(who became confused, in character and name, with the 
pastoral sky god of the Northern Flatlands). In Greece and 
Rome, where Indo-European ideas were powerful, there was 
considerable confusion of these ideas: the sexual aspect 
became separated from the vegetation aspect, one being 
associated with Aphrodite, or Venus, and her lover, Adonis, 
while the other was associated with Demeter, or Ceres. In 
Greece the old oriental legend of the dying god became the 
familiar story of Demeter and her daughter Persephone, 
whose annual visit to Hades caused the death of vegetation 
in the summer season. 

Changes such as these are not easy to document from 
the archaeological record since they are not material, but 
they clearly must be inferred to explain the evidence of the 
later period, when the invention of writing makes it possible 
to obtain clearer records of ideological developments. 
These changes, which we can postulate for the Ages of 
Mixture and Gestation, were greatly influenced by the de- 
velopment of the Sumerian priesthood. It is extremely 
likely that the importance of this priesthood was organiza- 
tional rather than religious or ideological at first. By 4500 
this organizational significance was fully established: a new, 
separate group had emerged in Mesopotamian society, and 
this group was accumulating control of wealth beyond its 

220' The Evolution of Civilizations 

own immediate consumption needs, and using this surplus 
to command the resources of production into capital proj- 
ects. It is not clear to us how this development took place, 
nor why it occurred at numerous different sites in Mesopo- 
tamia, but the consequences of it are quite evident: society 
was launched into an Age of Expansion. 

3. Expansion 

The Age of Expansion of Mesopotamian civilization 
lasted about two thousand years, say from just before 4500 
to just before 2500. In this period some of the most signifi- 
cant advances in human history were either made or adapted 
to large-scale use. These include the plow, wheeled carts 
and draft animals, bricks, the arch, city life, industrialized 
manufacture of pottery on the potter's wheel, copper and 
bronze smelting, a great extension of distant trade, sail- 
boats, writing, an elaborate number system, including posi- 
tional notation; remarkable advances in astronomy and to 
a lesser extent in medicine, and fundamental changes in 
religious and social life. 

It is not certain that the plow is a Sumerian invention, 
although it was clearly used in the prehistoric period before 
3000 B.C. It may have been invented by the Painted Pottery 
Peoples, since large stones which might have been plow- 
shares (but are more likely to be carpentry tools) have 
been found in their sites in Europe before 2000 B.C. But 
this is a thousand years after the plow was used in Mesopo- 
tamia or in Egypt. 

The early plows of the alluvial valleys were shaped to dig 
into the soil to break up the sunbaked flood crust rather than 

Mesopotamian Civilization '221 

to turn over sod. They were simply enlarged and reinforced 
neolithic grubbing hoes drawn by draft animals. The use of 
animals, usually oxen, was one of the factors that trans- 
formed agriculture from a female to a male activity, since 
control of oxen was no easy task. From the economic point 
of view the significant result of this change was a consider- 
able increase in production, since a much larger area of 
more fertile ground could be prepared for planting by a plow 
than by a neolithic hoe. 

The wheel is almost certainly a Mesopotamian invention, 
being found there before 4000 B.C., more than two thousand 
years before it was known in Egypt. It was, of course, better 
adapted to the broad flat alluvial plain of Mesopotamia than 
it was to the narrow rocky land of Egypt, especially as the 
latter's transport needs were much more adequately served 
by river traffic, and draft animals were more conveniently 
available to the valley of the Two Rivers. 
It is usually assumed that the earliest wheels must have 
been solid (rather than spoked) and were simply cross sec- 
tions of tree trunks previously used as rollers. This is weak- 
ened by the fact that large tree trunks were very scarce in 
Mesopotamia, and the earliest representations we have of 
wheels are spoked. The first of these representations is from 
Level VI at Hassuna, about 4000 B.C., and shows a spoked 
wheel on a piece of pottery. It seems very likely that this was 
intended to be a symbol of the sun rather than a wheel and 
that the idea of a wheel arose from recognition that sun 
disks, either solid or rayed (spoked), would roll. From a 
very early period, symbols of the gods were displayed as 
emblems on the walls of temples or were exposed before the 
temples or carried in processions mounted on standards. 
One of the most common of these emblems was the rayed 

222' The Evolution of Civilizations 

sun disk. Once it was recognized that such disks would roll, 
it is very likely that they were first used as wheels on cere- 
monial carts kept in the temple, as the Juggernaut car was 
in India. In fact the Juggernaut procession as a necessary 
ceremony for agrarian fertility, ensured by soaking the earth 
with blood under the wheels of a solar car, is closely related 
to some of the earliest religious ideas of Mesopotamia. 
Once the wheeled cart was invented as a religious cere- 
monial object, its utilitarian use soon became established, 
probably to carry tribute to the god's storehouses. In a short 
time it was being used as a war vehicle drawn by more 
speedy asses or onagers. By 2500 B.C. priestly tombs at Ur 
contained four-wheel ox-drawn carts of advanced design. 
The surplus controlled by the priesthood had to be stored, 
and the priests themselves needed residences and adminis- 
trative centers for their many activities. In Mesopotamia, 
which lacked both stone and wood, a solution to this prob- 
lem was found in the invention of sun-dried bricks about 
5000 B.C. From this came the invention of the arch, the 
construction of temple platforms (ziggurats), and eventu- 
ally the creation of the debris mounds (tells) found through- 
out southwestern Asia. The arch is a very difficult invention, 
made only once in human history, and accordingly unknown 
to the Incas or Aztecs. Used in Mesopotamia by the fourth 
millennium, the arch was probably invented in the form of 
the dome, of which it is a cross section. Early Sumerian huts 
were circular in ground plan, constructed of rushes and 
wicker wands stuck upright in the earth and tied together at 
their upper ends. It would soon be noticed that this structure 
would enclose a wider, more spherical space if a heavy 
weight were suspended from the center of the roof where 
the wickers came together. In this way the whole shape be- 

Mesopotamian Civilization • 223 

came less of a cone and more of a dome. If an effort were 
made to face this structure with brick, it would soon appear 
that the weight hanging from the upper center was an essen- 
tial feature of the structure and must be retained in the form 
of a keystone. The arch itself could easily develop from 
efforts to make a more elongated building from this dome- 
like structure, just as happened with Eskimo igloos. 
The arch, which did not diffuse to Egypt until very late, 
diffused across Syria and Anatolia, and was carried from 
northwestern Anatolia to northwestern Italy by the Etrus- 
cans after 1000 B.C. Adopted by the Romans, it was spread 
by them throughout western Europe and back to the Near 
East to Greece and Egypt, becoming the chief feature of 
ecclesiastical architecture in the medieval period both in 
Western cathedrals and in Byzantine churches. An alterna- 
tive method for roofing large spaces, by supporting a lintel 
across the tops of columns, is so simple that it has been 
invented independently by every child who has played with 
blocks in his nursery. This was the method that was used 
regularly by the Egyptians, Minoans, Greeks, and the civi- 
lized peoples of America. In this structure the distance be- 
tween columns is determined by the breaking point of the 
lintel under stress from its own weight. This point was so 
low with the materials available to ancient man that any 
room of normal width had to be supported by rows of 
columns down the middle. 

The temples and priestly palaces of the Mesopotamians 
were built on the summits of flat-topped stepped pyramids 
on mounds, made of mud or clay and faced with sun-dried 
or oven-baked bricks or by pottery jars. These ziggurats, 
as they were called, are taken as evidence for the Highland 
origin of the Sumerians, since they evidently believed that 

224 • The Evolution of Civilizations 

their gods would feel at home on a high spot, and the word 
"ziggurat" meant "peak" in their language. The earliest 
temple, found at Tepe Gawra in northern Iraq, goes back 
to about 4500 B.C., on a site that was occupied, seven 
hundred years later, by an elaborate ziggurat surmounted 
by three large temples. Later, more impressive ziggurats 
were built at other places, notably further down the valley at 
Uruk, Ur, and Babylon. The one at Uruk, built about 3200 
B.C., was oriented to the four points of the compass and 
measured 140 by 150 feet and was 30 feet high. It supported 
the oldest stone construction in the valley and a temple 
measuring 50 by 65 feet. The most famous of these struc- 
tures was the biblical "Tower of Babel" built at Babylon 
about 2000 B.C. and rebuilt by Nebuchadrezzar about 600 


At a very early date, long before 4000 B.C., metal began 
to be used in the form of natural nuggets of gold and copper. 
These materials were so valuable and so soft that they could 
not be used for tools, which continued to be, as previously, 
of stone. Ornaments, however, were made by hammering 
and later (probably after the discovery of smelting from 
ores) by casting. Soon weapons, probably ceremonial, were 
made of copper. Eventually, possibly by natural contamina- 
tion, it was found that the addition of a small percentage of 
tin or other metal to copper lowered the melting point and 
gave a much stronger alloy. By 3000 B.C. the correct propor- 
tions of tin and copper (one to ten) to give strong bronze 
had been found. As a result the use of bronze for weapons 
or tools spread rapidly, and the use of stone decreased. 
The metallurgical discoveries we have mentioned were 
not made in Mesopotamia or in any other alluvial valley, 
since these lacked the necessary raw materials. They were 

Mesopotamian Civilization • 225 

rather products of the Highland Zone, probably on its south- 
ern fringe and fairly close to Lake Van. But the rapidly 
rising standards of living in the river valleys created a de- 
mand able to suck ores and metal products from great 
distances into the civilized areas. Thus there arose lines of 
distant trade converging on the Mesopotamian cities. The 
chief of these lines pobably went northward toward Afghan- 
istan, Iran, Armenia, and the Caucasus, but these lines have 
not been explored in any adequate fashion by archaeologists. 
Other, better known, routes, which are of greater signifi- 
cance to our story, went westward across the Syrian Saddle 
toward Anatolia and the seaports of the Levant. 
The demand for metals from remote areas was supported 
by the surpluses accumulated in priestly hands in Mesopo- 
tamia. As a result of such demand, small quantities of metal 
had a great value in terms of agricultural produce, and it was 
worthwhile to carry metallic products great distances. By 
2000 B.C., as we have indicated, intermediaries, who were 
originally Semites but were later more mixed in origin, were 
bringing Spanish copper, Irish gold, Cornish tin, Bohemian 
copper, as well as Danish amber, to both Mesopotamia and 
Egypt. Such distant trade would not have been possible 
without sailing vessels that were developed somewhere in 
the Near East (probably on the Persian Gulf) before 3000 


The introduction of writing and of a system of numbers 
was undoubtedly made in Mesopotamia, as a consequence 
of their highly developed sense of private property. Seals 
with incised designs were being used to indicate ownership 
by impression on clay labels in the fifth millennium. The 
agglutinative character of the Sumerian language probably 
assisted the growth of writing, since symbolic marks could 

226- The Evolution of Civilizations 

readily come to stand for syllables, and its full development 
was undoubtedly aided by the needs of large-scale priestly 
administration of temple wealth. Since tribute was con- 
tributed to the god in hope of a favorable flood and good 
crops, and payment was made for water from the god's 
irrigation channels, records had to be kept. Long before 
3000 B.C. this was being done by scratching on pieces of 
clay marsh reeds. Soon this was done by stamp seals and 
later still by cylinder seals that could inscribe a continuous 
record of ownership by being rolled across wet clay. Slowly 
an arbitrary system of symbols came to stand for numbers, 
amounts, and commodities. Later other symbols came to 
stand for ideas and thus for syllables. Such ideographic or 
syllabic writings were not completely satisfactory because 
ideas and syllables are so numerous that a large number of 
distinct symbols was needed to express even quite simple 
messages. None of the river-valley civilizations ever made 
the next step to a system of writing in which a small number 
of symbols represented the relatively few basic sounds used 
in any language. The Egyptians came close to this achieve- 
ment because they did have twenty-four symbols that stood 
for monosyllabic words consisting of a consonant and a 
vowel, and were used to represent the consonant alone. But 
the Egyptians continued to use hundreds of other symbols 
for ideas, syllables, or words, and thus never acquired the 
true alphabet. This great achievement, as we shall see, was 
made by the Canaanite civilization in the course of the sec- 
ond millennium B.C. 

The number system of Mesopotamian civilization, fully 
worked out by 2000 B.C., was much more efficient than their 
method of writing. At first they used a system based on ten, 
but by the historic period they had added one based on sixty 

Mesopotamian Civilization • 227 

for scientific work. This was much more convenient to use 
because it eliminated most fractions. The base 10 is divisible 
only by itself and 1, 2, and 5; the base 60 is divisible by itself 
and 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 10, 15, 20, and 30. Fractions were 
difficult for these archaic peoples because they could not 
conceive of fractions except with numerators of 1; thus 3/4 
was written as 1/2 plus 1/4. 

A great advance was made about 2100 B.C. when the 
Babylonians adopted positional notation, such as we use. 
In our decimal system each place from right to left repre- 
sents a higher power of ten, the figure in each column 
indicating how many times that power of ten is to be taken. 
For example, the number 256 represents the sum of 2 times 
10 2 , 5 times 10 1 and 6 times 10°. In the Babylonian system, 
where each column represented similar powers of sixty, the 
symbol 256 would refer to the sum of 2 times 60 2 , 5 times 
60 1 and 6 times 60°, or 7,506 in our decimal system. 
Positional notation for numbers, even without a symbol 
for zero (which the Sumerians lacked), is one of the funda- 
mental inventions on which our Western civilization is 
based. Strangely enough it was not known to Classical 
antiquity, which used the cumbersome method familiar to 
us in Roman numerals. With this system calculations di- 
rectly with numbers were not possible and had to be per- 
formed by some kind of calculating machine such as pebbles 
in boxes or by the use of the abacus. 

As a result of studies based on religious motives, great 
progress was made in the field of astronomy. Originally this 
interest came from the Sumerian priesthood's concern with 
the seasons, the solar year, and the date of the flood. It 
undoubtedly continued because of tradition, from a super- 
stitious interest in astrology, and from the hope that knowl- 

228 The Evolution of Civilizations 

edge of astral behavior would help the priests in controlling 
the credulous masses of the population. 

At no time was the Mesopotamian approach to astronomy 
scientific in our sense, and it became less so as time went 
on. Rather it was empirical. In our scientific approach we 
have an idealized picture of the interrelations of the heavenly 
bodies, and we try to forecast astronomical events by pro- 
jecting the relationships of the heavenly bodies into the 
future from our knowledge of their present positions and 
future motions. The Mesopotamians made no use of such 
a picture. Instead they kept accurate records over long 
periods of the occurrence of certain events and tried to fore- 
cast future occurrences by adding the average period be- 
tween all past observances of the event to the date of the last 
observation of it. Since each observation gave them one 
more period to use in calculating the average period, their 
estimates became increasingly accurate right to the end of 
Mesopotamian civilization. This increasing accuracy, for 
example in foretelling eclipses, must not be taken to indicate 
a continued advance of science, since the whole system was 
empirical rather than scientific. 

But the results are impressive. The work of the late Chal- 
dean astronomers, such as Naburimanni (alive in 490 B.C.) 
or Kidinnu (alive in 379), is almost unbelievable. Naburi- 
manni gave lists of eclipses of the sun, including ones he 
knew would not be visible in Babylon; he gave the times on 
which these eclipses would begin, with errors of only a few 
minutes; he gave the positions of the planets far into the 
future with similar small errors. His successor Kidinnu gave 
the length of the sidereal year as 365 days 6 hours, 13 
minutes, 43.4 seconds, which is only 4 minutes, 32.65 sec- 
onds too long. He gave the length of the earth's movement 

Mesopotamian Civilization '229 

from its closest distance to the sun, away, and back again 
as 365 days, 6 hours, 25 minutes, 46 seconds — the still 
accepted figure. He gave many other calculations with an 
accuracy that was not exceeded until the nineteenth century 
or is still accepted today. 

In spite of such observations Mesopotamia never achieved 
a 365-day calendar as accurate as the Egyptian. All the 
alluvial civilizations were troubled by efforts to combine the 
old paleolithic month based on changes of the moon with 
the new agrarian year based on movements of the sun. Since 
the phases of the moon take about 29 1/2 days, while the shifts 
of the sun take approximately 365 1/4 days, it is not possible 
to fit a round number of lunar months into a solar year. 
Originally both civilizations did this by making the year 360 
days or 12 lunar months of 30 days each. In such a system, 
both the year and the month were incorrect. The Egyptians 
remedied the error in the length of the year by adding five 
days which belonged to no month; the Mesopotamians tried 
to remedy the error in the length of the month by alternating 
months of 29 and 30 days. This difference arose because 
the Egyptian economy was largely agricultural, and thus 
emphasized the sun and the year, while the Mesopotamians 
were constantly under pressure from Semitic pastoral peo- 
ples to whom the moon was more important than the sun. 
As a result, the length of the Semitic year came to be only 
354 days long, and the seasons (which require 365 1/4 days 
to pass in review) moved slowly through the various months. 
To remedy this a nineteen-year cycle was established in 747 
B.C. by inserting seven months in every nineteen-year period, 
just as we insert a day in leap year. The older unreformed 
Babylonian calendar of 354 days was adopted by the 
Semites, and came through the Phoenicians to the Greeks. 

230 • The Evolution of Civilizations 

This chaotic calendar continued to be used at Athens, al- 
though Democritus learned of the nineteen-year cycle on a 
visit to Babylon about 448, and Meton, in 433, tried to in- 
troduce it but could not win Athenian approval. The 354- 
day calendar of Mesopotamia is known to the Arabs to this 

The attempt to fit the lunar month into the solar year was 
continued until the time of Julius Caesar (45 B.C.). The 
Romans used a modified version of an Anatolian calendar 
which they had obtained from the Etruscans, but they mis- 
managed it so completely that by the time of Caesar the 
civic year was about three months ahead of the solar year. 
Caesar adopted the Egyptian calendar of 365 1/4 days by 
inserting two months before March and rearranging the 
number of days in the months as we have them today. This 
calendar was made even more accurate when Pope Gregory 
XIII provided in 1582 that full century years (like 1800, 
1900, 2000, and so on) would not be leap years except when 
they could be divided by 400. 

The obsession of the archaic civilizations with astronomy 
and calendars had, originally, a rational and practical ex- 
planation and undoubtedly it was pursued with this end in 
view in the period 5000-2500 B.C. By the third millennium, 
however, both in Mesopotamia and in Egypt, the rate of 
expansion was beginning to slow down, the priestly or royal 
surpluses were increasingly being used for nonproductive 
purposes, and social discontents were rising. These priestly 
surpluses were controlled by such a small group that they 
could be applied to utilize new and better methods of pro- 
duction only by extending the benefits of such increased 
production to wider and wider circles of society. The priestly 
groups already had more of the necessities of life than they 

Mesopotamian Civilization '23 1 

could possibly consume, but they were, perhaps uncon- 
sciously, reluctant to extend these benefits to such a wide 
group as to make their clique's existence meaningless or 
even impossible. Instead of using their surpluses for in- 
creased production, which would involve a drastic redistri- 
bution of the society's income, they began to apply this 
income to nonproductive purposes. As a result the age of 
expansion began to draw to its close about the middle of the 
third millennium B.C. 

We have said that an Age of Expansion shows geographic 
extension of the area of the society's culture, increase in its 
population, increase in its economic production, growth of 
factual knowledge, and, probably, certain elements of sci- 
ence and of democracy. The existence of all these seems well 
established in the period of expansion of Mesopotamian 
society. Its area filled the Tigris-Euphrates Valley and 
pushed up into the surrounding highlands and across the 
Syrian Saddle into the Levant and Anatolia; it even spread 
down the Persian Gulf to its lower shores. The growth of 
population is evident from the great number of tells across 
the plain and from the debris of thousands of residential 
houses in the ruined strata of these mounds. The rise in 
production and in standards of living is clearly established 
by the same evidence, while the growth of knowledge is 
recorded in the hundreds of thousands of inscribed clay 
tablets in these ruins. The advance of science has been 
mentioned already and is beyond doubt, but the existence 
of primitive democratic elements in Sumerian life must be 
based on inference. The arguments to support the existence 
of democratic influences in the prehistoric period have been 
given by Thorkild Jacob sen of the University of Chicago. 
They have not won universal acceptance by other scholars 

232 • The Evolution of Civilizations 

because of differences of opinion on how much democracy is 
necessary to make a society "democratic"; there seems no 
doubt about the existence of democratic elements in the 
earlier period. 

The position held by at least some members of the ruling 
groups in Mesopotamia at the very end of the age of expan- 
sion can be seen in the famous "Royal" graves at Ur about 
2500 B.C. By that time the people believed that their priestly 
ruler (called ensi) was the god's representative on earth and 
that his intercession was necessary to obtain the god's sup- 
port for all the orderly periodicities necessary to human life 
on earth. Since they believed in a life after death similar to 
the life on this earth, these priestly leaders were, in some 
cases, buried with food, furniture, treasures, and even serv- 
ants to assist their life in the hereafter. At Ur the tombs, 
buried in the earth, were full-size rooms constructed of 
brick and stone, the latter brought from the hills thirty miles 
distant. When the body of the ensi was placed in the tomb, 
his servants and wives were killed at his side, several four- 
wheeled oxcarts were driven in and the oxen and drivers 
killed, and he was surrounded with rich furnishings. One 
ensi's tomb contained the bodies of sixty persons killed with 
him; another contained the remains of six men and sixty- 
eight women; in another, twenty-five persons were buried 
with the wife of the ensi. Although many of these tombs 
have been plundered by grave robbers, we possess numerous 
magnificent objects that were left with the dead. Among 
these were a twenty-five-inch model ship made of silver, an 
elaborate headdress containing more than twenty-five feet 
of gold band, a helmet of sheet gold hammered to resemble 
locks of hair and even individual hairs, numerous cups, 
vases, and bowls of gold and silver, daggers of gold with 

Mesopotamian Civilization «233 

lapis-lazuli handles, magnificently decorated harps, and 
many statues of animals in precious metals. 
The increased concentration of wealth, the increased 
diversion of this wealth from productive to unproductive 
purposes, and the great growth in superstition, magic, and 
irrational practices were soon followed, in the late third 
millennium B.C., by a rapid increase in the frequency and 
intensity of imperialist war. All of these changes mark the 
shift from the Age of Expansion to an Age of Conflict. 

4. The Age of Conflict 

We have defined the Age of Conflict as extending from 
the date when the rate of expansion begins to decline to the 
period when one political unit establishes a universal empire 
by conquering the entire area of the civilization. In the 
earlier part of this period the whole core of the civilization 
may be conquered by one or more preliminary empires. In 
Mesopotamian society we may fix the dates of the Age of 
Conflict from about 2700 B.C. to the Assyrian Conquest 
about 700 B.C. The preliminary universal empires would be 
found in the Akkadian period about 2350 B.C. and again in 
the Babylonian period about 1700 B.C. 

We have already listed the chief characteristics of an 
Age of Conflict to be (1) decreasing rate of expansion, 
(2) imperialist wars, (3) class conflicts, and (4) irrational- 
ity. These qualities were generally prevalent in the two 
thousand years that we have called Mesopotamia's Age of 
Conflict. Of these the second is most obvious. By the latter 
half of the third millennium, war became the dominant 
activity of the society, and secular military leaders of the 

234 • The Evolution of Civilizations 

armies rose to a social position so high that they were able 
to dominate, without ever completely replacing, the religious 
leaders who had previously dominated the society. War 
became, in the minds of many people, the only way in which 
adequate supplies of slaves and metals could be obtained 
and by which some compensation could be obtained for the 
slowing up of economic and technical progress. The slowing 
up of such advance is clearly visible after 2500 B.C., al- 
though the dissipation of the priestly surplus gave, for a 
while, a more equitable distribution of the social income and 
the appearance of a rise in standards of living. This slowing 
up can be seen by comparing the technical advances of the 
two millennia 4700-2700 with those of the equally long 
period 2700-700. In the earlier interval we find dozens 
of significant inventions and discoveries; in the later one 
we find, according to V. Gordon Childe, only two. These 
two are positional notation of numbers, in Babylon, 
about 2000, and the invention of aqueducts by the Assyrians 
at the end of the eighth century B.C. There were a few other 
minor advances, chiefly in military tactics and governmental 
administration, but progress, in the old nineteenth century 
meaning of that abused word, never again moved Mesopo- 
tamian civilization at such a high rate as it did around 
3000 B.C. 

Instead of progress, the whole period of 2,000 years was 
filled with wars. In the first part of the period, during the 
third millennium, these wars were local struggles within the 
river valleys themselves. For the later and longer portion of 
the period, covering most of the second and first millennia 
B.C., these wars developed into violent struggles between 
civilizations. The chief aim of these later conflicts was to 
control the Syrian Saddle and thus to win, at one stroke, an 

Mesopotamian Civilization -235 

important source of timber, control of the link between the 
eastern and western areas of civilization, and the right to 
impose tribute — in succession to the Mitanni — on a major 
part of the commercial activities of the Near East. In these 
struggles the chief contenders were the Egyptian Empire, 
the Hittite Empire in Anatolia, and whatever empire was 
dominant in Mesopotamia. 

We say "whatever empire was dominant in Mesopotamia" 
because there was a sequence of empires in the valley of the 
two rivers, roughly corresponding to the sequence of dynas- 
ties in Egypt. Ultimately the Hittites and Egyptians, who 
had been struggling violently for Syria in the thirteenth cen- 
tury, were both eclipsed, and the final victory in the whole 
Near East, including rule over all these areas, went to the 
universal empire of Mesopotamia. The Hittite civilization 
was ended by the Iron Age invaders of the twelfth century 
B.C., while Egypt, which had a shorter Age of Conquest but 
a much longer Age of Decay than Mesopotamia, suffered 
the consequence of this phasing by being conquered by 
Mesopotamian society. 

If we examine the history of Mesopotamia and Egypt 
from this point of view, we find an extraordinary parallel. 
This parallel was distorted by two, relatively minor, differ- 
ences. Mesopotamia was older than Egypt and thus entered 
upon its Age of Conflict somewhat earlier (2500 B.C., as 
compared to 2200 B.C.), but, being politically disunited and 
in an exposed geographic position, had a much longer Age 
of Conflict and a very much shorter Age of Decay. Egypt's 
protected geographic position, which allowed it to decay 
without much outside interference for a long time, fell to the 
Greeks without even a token resistance in 334 B.C., while 
Mesopotamia, which had reached its Age of Universal 


The Evolution of Civilizations 

Empire so much later, had only a brief Age of Decay and 
accordingly still had sufficient vitality to put up a vigorous 
resistance to Alexander's invasion before it also succumbed 
in 333 B.C. 

The parallelism of the two civilizations may be seen in 
the following table: 





















Universal Empire 











In both societies the Age of Conflict was punctuated by 
the intrusion of pastoral intruders, the Hyksos in Egypt and 
the Kassites in Mesopotamia, both shortly after 1700 B.C. 
In Egypt the Hyksos remained a people apart, with their 
center outside Egypt itself (at Avaris in Sinai) and occupy- 
ing only a portion of the Delta for exploitative purposes; 
they were more easily expelled, about 1567, and Egypt 
resumed its autonomous evolution, achieving its full uni- 
versal empire in what we call the New Kingdom (1570- 

In Mesopotamia the process was more prolonged. The 
preliminary core empire of the Akkadians (2250-2150) 
was overthrown to be followed by another Semitic intrusion 
(the Amorites), and a second preliminary core empire of 
Semitic domination centered at Babylon. This latter state, 
whose best known ruler was the famous Hammurabi (1728- 
1686), was never firmly established, and the intrusion of 
the Kassites, a generation later, broke Mesopotamia up into 

Mesopotamian Civilization '237 

conflicting political units once more. Only after centuries of 
interminable struggles did a real universal empire emerge 
under the Assyrians. Armed with iron weapons and employ- 
ing a policy of ruthless militarism, peripheral Assyria 
emerged from the hill country north of the river valley in the 
ninth century B.C. Under Tiglath-Pileser I (1114-1076) 
and Ashurnasirpal II (883-859) they conquered the area 
between Armenia, the Tigris, and Syria. The methods they 
used have been recorded by Ashurnasirpal himself in the 
following inscriptions: 

"I stormed the mountain peaks and took them. In the 
midst of the mighty mountain I slaughtered them, and, with 
their blood, dyed the mountain red like wool. ... I carried 
off their spoil and their possessions. The heads of their 
warriors I cut off, and I formed them into a pillar over 
against their city. Their young men and maidens I burned in 
the fire. ... I flayed all the chief men who had revolted and 
I covered the pillar with their skins; some I walled up within 
the pillar; some I impaled upon the pillar on stakes. . . . 
Many within the border of my own land I flayed, and I 
spread their skins upon the walls, and I cut off the limbs of 
the royal officers who had rebelled." 

With methods such as these, Assyria conquered most of 
the Near East and even conquered Egypt for a brief period 
(668-652), but was replaced by Chaldea, a state of Ara- 
mean Semites, in 612 B.C. Chaldea, in turn, yielded to the 
last Mesopotamian universal empire, Persia, in 538. 
The sequence of universal empires in Mesopotamia 
helped to keep the society stronger than it would otherwise 
have been. This is equivalent to saying that its period of 
decay was postponed. Each state yielded to its successor 
because its own instruments of governing had become in- 

238 • The Evolution of Civilizations 

stitutionalized, but the arrival of new instruments of govern- 
ment at the succession of a new state in supreme control 
served to revitalize the society. This was especially true of 
the last of these universal empires, that of the Persians, 
which assumed control in 538 B.C. and provided a very 
vigorous government for so late in the career of a civiliza- 
tion. By 350, of course, the Stage of Decay had been 
reached, but even then Mesopotamia, unlike Egypt, was 
not deep in decay, as Egypt was. 

From these rather cursory remarks it would seem that 
both Mesopotamian and Egyptian civilizations followed the 
pattern of the seven stages of civilization with only minor 
distortions. The word "minor" can, however, hardly be 
applied to the next civilization we wish to examine, that 
of the Canaanites (2200 b.c-100 B.C.). 

Canaanite and Minoan 

r I Vo civilizations, utterly dissimilar in character, serve as 
-*- connecting links between Sumerian culture and Classi- 
cal civilization. Of these, Minoan civilization is consider- 
ably the older, beginning to form before 3000 B.C. and 
dissolving to death about 1000 B.C. The younger, Canaanite 
civilization, followed along at least a millennium later, in 
the period 2200 B.c-50 B.C. The difference in character of 
the two is almost as great as could be, the younger one being 
violent and bloodthirsty, especially in its religious ceremo- 
nies, to a degree exceeded by no other society, except per- 
haps the Mesoamerican during the Aztec period, while 
Minoan society was gentle and peaceful, without temples or 
any known religious ceremonies. 

Chronologically Minoan civilization should be discussed 
first, but logically it is better to reverse the order because of 
the close cultural relations between Minoan society and 
Classical civilization to be discussed in the chapter to 

240 • The Evolution of Civilizations 

A. Canaanite Civilization 

Because of its exposed geographic position, at the cross- 
roads between Egyptian, Mesopotamian, and Hittite civili- 
zations and the frequent incursions of these powerful 
cultures into its core area, Canaanite society has the most 
distorted sequence of stages of any civilization we shall dis- 
cuss. Of its importance there can be no doubt, since it con- 
tributed much to later peoples, including the alphabet and 
two great religions. But its basic unity as a single society is 
frequently missed because of emphasis placed on geographic 
areas, linguistic groupings, political units, or religious 
groups. The situation is further complicated by the fact that 
its universal empire (Carthage) was so distant as to justify 
to many students a completely isolated treatment from the 
core area (the Levant) whence it arose. 

The instrument of expansion of Canaanite society is also 
a source of difficulty because it is a type of economic organi- 
zation so familiar to us that it is taken as a matter of course 
without the emphasis which is placed, for example, on 
Mesopotamian temple administration or the domination of 
Egyptian economic life by the Pharaonic state. The Canaan- 
ite instrument of expansion seems to have been commercial 
capitalism. Thus it is similar to the instrument of expansion 
that gave our Western civilization its second age of expan- 
sion in 1440-1690. 

Capitalism might be defined, if we wish to be scientific, 
as a form of economic organization motivated by the pursuit 
of profit within a price structure. Thus defined, it should be 
evident that there can be more than one kind of capitalism 
and that any kind can perform as an instrument or perform 
with decreasing effectiveness by becoming institutionalized. 

Canaanite and Minoan Civilizations *241 

When profits are pursued by geographic interchange of 
goods, so that commerce for profit becomes the central 
mechanism of the system, we usually call it "commercial 
capitalism." In such a system goods are conveyed from areas 
where they are more common (and therefore cheaper) to 
areas where they are less common (and therefore less 
cheap). This process leads to regional specialization and to 
division of labor, both in agricultural production and in 
handicrafts. Both of these, as well as the interlinking com- 
mercial groups, become specialized activities within a 
market nexus. 

It is extremely likely that Canaanite society developed 
commercial capitalism as its instrument of expansion be- 
cause its core area, the Levant, was on the western ap- 
proaches to the Syrian Saddle at the point where these 
approaches shifted from waterborne to land transportation. 
This point was the juncture between the demand for raw 
materials, especially metals, created by the high standard of 
living of Mesopotamian civilization to the east and the 
sources of such raw materials, accessible by water, to the 
west. These created a powerful mutual attraction that could 
hardly fail to turn the incipient Canaanite society toward 
trading for profit. In fact, this attraction was operating even 
before the Canaanites settled on the western approaches to 
the Syrian Saddle about 2200 B.C.; it drew into this activity 
the proto-Assyrian peoples on the eastern approaches of the 
Syrian Saddle, on the upper Tigris drainage, so that these 
Assyrian speakers were settled as far west as southern 
Anatolia (Cappadocia), if not farther, in defended trading 
posts, even before 2200 B.C. 

Commercial capitalism, as an instrument of expansion, 
has powerful tendencies to become institutionalized, to the 

242- The Evolution of Civilizations 

injury of continued economic advance. Such institutionaliza- 
tion arises when pursuit of profit becomes dominant over 
the real, if remote, goals of any economic system. These real 
goals include high enjoyment of wealth, and can be an- 
alyzed into high production, high distribution, and high 
consumption of goods. As long as the pursuit of profits 
serves to assist these goals, any profit organization of the 
economic system remains an instrument, but this is likely to 
continue only as long as the trading system is a competitive 
one. As long as the competitive aspect of the organization 
continues, each entrepreneur seeks to obtain a larger share 
of the total trade for himself, and invests his savings, as in 
ships, wharves, or warehouses, in order to do so. Such in- 
vestment increases the total volume of trade, which, in turn, 
increases the total volume of production on one side, and 
the total volume of consumption on the other side. This 
increase in wealth has, eventually, an adverse effect on the 
volume of profits, since profits (meaning a surplus over the 
total of the costs of production and of distribution) require 
a scarcity system. Increase in volume, by making goods 
less scarce, reduces the margin by which retail selling prices 
exceed costs and thus, in general terms, jeopardizes profits. 
When this occurs, and the commercial traders are in a posi- 
tion to reduce their mutual competition, they seek to man- 
age the market, by reducing volume in order to raise profits. 
In this way profits become dominant over wealth as an 
economic goal, to the jeopardy of volume and high living 
standards. Means have become ends — or, as we put it, an 
instrument has become an institution. This process took place 
in our own Western civilization about the seventeenth cen- 
tury, and of that process we generally say that commercial 
capitalism (or the "commercial revolution," in the older 

Canaanite and Minoan Civilizations »243 

books) was transformed into mercantilism. In Canaanite so- 
ciety we speak of the rise of a "commercial oligarchy" in the 
later days of Phoenicia or of Carthage. When this occurred, 
the society ceased to expand by economic means (that is, by 
increasing volume of wealth, or by intensification of eco- 
nomic activities) and tried to expand by political means 
(that is, to increase profits by extensification of economic 
activities by bringing wider geographic areas under the in- 
stitutionalized economic organization). Thus, the economic 
imperialism and wars typical of Stage 4 of any civilization 
replaced the earlier economic expansion (which also in- 
volved geographic expansion, but by exploration and coloni- 
zation rather than by imperialist wars). 

1. Mixture 

The period of mixture in Canaanite society is clear 
enough. About 2200 B.C., and for several centuries after 
that, the Amurru were pushing out of the Syrian Desert into 
the Fertile Crescent. Those who moved eastward into Meso- 
potamia we call Amorites (Babylonians), while those who 
moved westward into the Levant are generally called Ca- 
naanites. Many of these intruders were pastoral peoples with 
herds of sheep or asses, but it is possible that some of them 
were tillers of the soil. In any case, they were Semite peoples, 
warlike and patriarchal, with a multiplicity of gods. Some 
of these deities were simply animistic spirits found in rocks, 
trees, or springs. Others were spirits of nature, including 
deities of storms, the sky, fertility, fire, water, and such. 
Others were gods of more abstract ideas representing the 
creator, justice, mercy, or crafts. This variety of deities in 

244 > The Evolution of Civilizations 

itself reflects a mixed culture coming into a situation where 
further mixture was inevitable. These other peoples came 
chiefly from Mesopotamia to the east and from Egypt to the 
south, but the Indo-European people from the north, known 
as Mitanni, and the Alpine peoples from the same direction, 
whom we call Hurrians, helped to contribute to what must 
have been a very complex mixture. And finally, during the 
middle centuries of the second millennium B.C., there were 
pervasive cultural elements from the seaways to the west, 
especially from Crete. These included Minoan and later 
Mycenaean influences. Thus it would seem that the period 
of mixture could be stretched to cover almost a whole 
millennium, from about 2300 to about 1300 B.C. 
In spite of this great mixture of different elements, 
Canaanite society developed its own distinctive outlook 
and character. Vigorous, practical, almost crude; grasping, 
unesthetic, yet with powerful spiritual impulses; filled with 
sensual desires and crass superstitions, yet with basic intelli- 
gence the equal of any other people in history — such was 
the complex nature of these Canaanite peoples, a nature 
which leaves them, to this day, a constant puzzle and source 
of interest to students. 

Whatever may have been the social organization of the 
Canaanites before they migrated, they came into the Fertile 
Crescent organized on the basis of blood groupings, either 
as families or tribes. Almost at once the more successful of 
these groups began to hack out areas of influence and create 
principalities organized on a somewhat different basis, since 
they claimed powers over peoples who were not related to 
the family of the prince. Thus, the idea of the state, coming 
perhaps from the city civilizations not far off, began to re- 
place the older ideas of tribal loyalty and blood vengeance. 

Canaanite and Minoan Civilizations '245 

The second millennium was still in its early centuries when 
a series of Amurru princes ruled the whole Fertile Crescent 
from the Persian Gulf to the Nile and, as "Hyksos," were 
beginning to force their way into Egypt. Amorite names like 
Abram, Jacob, and Benjamin were recorded in cuneiform 
writing for the whole area. Tribal or family influence was 
still so powerful in most places that individual rights were 
very weak, and a strong family group was a better guaran- 
tee of personal safety or of individual rights than either per- 
sonal prowess or princely power. 

In this rapidly developing society there were scattered 
persons whom the documents called "Habiru" or some 
similar term. They are recorded from Mesopotamia, Asia 
Minor, Egypt, and the Levant. The meaning of the term 
Habiru is disputed, but it seems to apply to persons whose 
social position did not provide them with the protection of 
blood relatives and of the threat of retaliatory feuding by 
their families. They were, what Maitland called in the early 
Middle Ages in England, "landless and kin-shattered men." 
The cause of this "kin- shattered" condition which left the 
Habiru in a precarious social condition is fairly clear. Any 
individual who had killed a member of his own family ob- 
viously lost the protection of that family and became socially 
isolated. Or again, any person who had made a formal 
agreement to become the bondsman of another had volun- 
tarily renounced the protection of his blood relatives. 
Similarly, men who bound themselves to fight for money 
could not expect their families to stand by prepared to 
avenge any injuries they might suffer in their combats. Such 
persons, without family to protect them or to force the 
prince to extend his protection, needed some other protector. 
This was found by seeking the favor of Yahveh, the God of 

246 • The Evolution of Civilizations 

mercy, one of the lesser deities in the numerous Canaanite 
pantheon. Such allegiance to Yahveh by bondsmen, murder- 
ers, or other "kin-shattered" persons did not originally imply 
any renunciation of the other deities in the Canaanite 
pantheon, and the Habiru continued to worship, as seemed 
fit, the other Canaanite Baals, working downward from the 
greatest, El, God of justice and Creator of the world. 
The economic activities of these Habiru were probably 
not much different from those of other Canaanites. But two 
comments might be made. As persons with weak or no kin- 
ship ties they probably wandered about from place to place 
more readily than other Canaanites. And there clearly seems 
to be, among the Habiru, a large proportion of wandering 
metalworkers and musicmakers. Some of these metalwork- 
ers were known as Kenites, a name traditionally derived 
from Cain, the son of Adam. It is worth noting that the mark 
the Lord put upon Cain was not a mark of damnation, as 
some believe, but a mark of protection: "the Lord put a 
mark on Cain, lest any who came upon him should kill 

It would appear thus that the Habiru who became the 
worshipers of Yahveh and later strict monotheists began as 
a legal or social group, later (at the time of Moses) became 
a religious group, and still later (at the time of Joshua) 
began to develop into a political group. Much later, after 
the Assyrian destruction of the Hebrew state, they became, 
once more, primarily a religious group, although there al- 
ways were tendencies to become a political group (by 
establishing Hebrew rule in some area) or to become a 
biological group (by insisting on endogamy). At any rate 
the Hebrews always were a group within Canaanite society 
and never became a society of their own. 

Canaanite and Minoan Civilizations • 247 

2. Gestation 

Because the process of mixture continued so long in 
Canaanite civilization, probably because of the very exposed 
geographic position of the Levant, we cannot fix any rigid 
date when mixture ended and gestation began. There 
was rather a series of advances and relapses not only in 
regard to these two stages but possibly in regard to the next 
as well. Moreover, the instrument of expansion we have 
posited for this society, commercial capitalism, is one in 
which there is no great interval between accumulation of 
surplus, plowing of this surplus back into the business, and 
increase of output arising from such investment. This 
process undoubtedly existed among the Canaanites at an 
early date in the second millennium, but it seems clear that 
the Levant was too closely dominated by Egyptian and 
Hittite influences for us to attribute much of its social dy- 
namics to Canaanite organization until fairly well along in 
that second millennium. By 1300 Egyptian power was in 
full retreat from the Levant, and a century later the Hittite 
Empire was breaking up under the blows of the Iron Age 
invaders. At that point, about 1200, the period of expansion 
of Canaanite society was beginning. 

3. Expansion 

The period of expansion of Canaanite society began as 
the withdrawal of Egyptian and Hittite influence and the 
absorption of Hurrian and Mitanni peoples allowed this new 
commercial society to emerge. At that time we find a three- 
fold situation: the Canaanite pagans in control of the south- 

248- The Evolution of Civilizations 

ern Levant were being squeezed between the Philistines 
coming in from the sea to the west and the Hebrews coming 
in from the desert to the east. 

The Canaanite pagans in this period were to be found not 
only in Palestine but also in Syria, where they were already 
engaged in the Levantine trading activities we associate with 
the Phoenicians. In fact they were early Phoenicians, al- 
though historians usually call them by the names of their 
respective cities. Of these cities the best known are probably 
Ras Shamra and Alalakh in northern Syria. The archaeo- 
logical evidence from these, especially from Ras Shamra 
(the ancient Ugarit), shows a flourishing trade going on 
between Mesopotamia and the Mediterranean peoples, par- 
ticularly the Mycenaeans from 1700 to 1200. It is clear 
that the period of expansion, in this area at least, was in 
full swing before the fourteenth century B.C. By the end of 
that century pressure from the Hittites and the damage 
caused by the great earthquake of about 1365 B.C., had 
hampered these more northern seaports and provided an 
opportunity for more southern seaports such as Byblos, 
Sidon, and Tyre to break into the western trade. It was these 
Phoenician cities that took Canaanite commerce through 
the Age of Expansion. 

While these developments were occurring in the north the 
Hebrew peoples were forming in the south. Some Habiru 
had accompanied the Hyksos into Egypt in the eighteenth 
century B.C. When these "Shepherd Peoples" were expelled 
from Egypt by Ahmose I about 1567, many of the Habiru 
remained, working as copper miners and coppersmiths in 
Sinai or as bondsmen and mercenary soldiers in Egypt itself. 
In time, Egyption rule over these peoples became increas- 
ingly oppressive. About 1300 a man with the Egyptian name 

Canaanite and Minoan Civilizations • 249 

of Moses killed an Egyptian and had to flee into the eastern 
deserts beyond Sinai. There he became acquainted with 
Yahveh, married the daughter of the Midianite priest of 
Yahveh, and returned to Egypt to lead the Habiru to safety. 
Instead of following the regular coast road from Egypt to 
Canaan, Moses led his followers eastward into the desert. 
After the revelation on Mount Sinai and the death of Moses, 
the new leader, Joshua, led the Hebrews into Canaan by 
making a wide swing into the desert to the east. The invad- 
ers sacked the Canaanite city of Jericho, which guarded the 
approach road from the east (about 1230) but were unable 
to cross the hills down into the western plains where the 
Canaanite war chariots were still undefeated. The new in- 
vention of lime-plastered cisterns for catching rain made 
it possible for the Israelites to expand along the hitherto 
unoccupied hills above the Canaanite-controlled springs and 
streams. Eventually the Canaanites were absorbed between 
the Hebrew pressure from the eastern hills and the seaborne 
invasions of the Philistines from the west (1200-1000), but 
the basic character of Canaanite culture was not greatly 
changed. There was a good deal of mutual assimilation and 
agricultural resettlement, but the chief changes were the 
acquisition by the Hebrews of agriculture with iron tools 
and weapons. By 1000 B.C. the chief distinction between 
Hebrews and Canaanites was religious, the former slowly 
abandoning the old, bloodthirsty Canaanite gods in favor of 
a supreme God of mercy and justice as a result of Moses' 
covenant from Mount Sinai. Even this was a slow process, 
and for many centuries persons who called themselves He- 
brews, including the well-known kings of Israel, lapsed into 
polytheistic acts. 
In Canaan the Hebrews built up two kingdoms in the in- 

250 • The Evolution of Civilizations 

terior of the country. Judah extended from the northern end 
of the Dead Sea at Jericho to the northern end of the Red 
Sea at the Gulf of Aqaba, and Israel extended from Jericho 
northward to Mount Hermon. Except for a short stretch 
from the latitude of Jericho north to Mount Carmel, the 
Hebrews did not control the Mediterranean seacoast, the 
southern section remaining in the hands of the Philistines 
while the northern section (Syria) rested in the hands of the 
Canaanites (Phoenicians). 

Under David and Solomon (ca. 1010-930) the priestly 
democracy of the earlier Hebrews, known as the "period of 
the Judges," was replaced by an autocratic, militaristic 
monarchy, patterned after other oriental kingdoms, with a 
standing army, a governmental bureaucracy, and annual 
taxes. Israel and Judah were united into the Kingdom of 
Israel with its capital at Jerusalem. With the help of Canaan- 
ite artisans and architects, a great temple and palace were 
built at Jersulaem, and a stone stable capable of accommo- 
dating over four hundred horses was built at Megiddo. Al- 
though the Hebrews did not control the port cities of the 
Levant, they were able to finance this luxury by acting as 
middlemen in commercial relations between the Arabs of 
the Red Sea and the Canaanites of the Phoenician coast. 
Solomon built a great port city, Ezion-Geber, at the head of 
the Gulf of Aqaba and made a profitable alliance with 
Hiram of Tyre in Phoenicia. The Sabaean Arabs of the Red 
Sea brought spices, myrrh, incense, gold, silver, "ivory, 
apes, and peacocks" from India and other areas. The Phoeni- 
cians, for their part, began to push westward by 1000 B.C., 
and, within a couple of centuries, had colonies at Carthage, 
Sardinia, Malaga, and Gades (Cadiz), whence they brought 
copper, tin, and iron to their cities in the Levant. The over- 

Canaanite and Minoan Civilizations -25 1 

land route from Ezion-Geber to Phoenicia was controlled 
by Solomon, who added to the trade iron and copper from 
his extensive smelteries in the Jordan Valley and horses bred 
in his great stud farm at Megiddo. 

In this way the Age of Expansion of Canaanite civiliza- 
tion continued for about five or more centuries. It had the 
typical characteristics of such a period: increased produc- 
tion, growing population, geographic exploration and colo- 
nization, and increased knowledge. The increasing 
availability of iron weapons and the spread of a money 
economy undoubtedly helped to advance democracy in this 
period although hardly enough to allow it to flourish. The 
Levant's exposed strategic position made any long-continued 
democracy unlikely. Nor is there much evidence for the 
existence of science. And finally, technological inventions, 
which are so often found in the Age of Expansion, were 
very rare. 

The one invention that must be emphasized is the alpha- 
bet, certainly one of the most significant in all of human 
history. This seems to have started in several forms, among 
a number of Amurra groups, quite early in the growth of 
Canaanite society, possibly in its Age of Gestation. The 
original idea may well have been based on the twenty-four 
monosyllabic symbols in Egyptian hieroglyphics modified to 
fit the Canaanite tongue during the Hyksos period, or at 
least in the Sinai area. 

One of the chief services performed by the Canaanites 
was the reestablishment of law and order on the high seas 
after the turmoil of the Iron Age invasions and the move- 
ments of the Peoples of the Sea. This greatly increased 
Mediterranean trade and introduced certain eastern factors 
into Classical civilization during its period of mixture. 

252 • The Evolution of Civilizations 

4. Conflict and Empire 

The flourishing situation that we have described began to 
decline, shortly after 800 B.C. in the Levant, although not 
until several generations later in the central and western 
Mediterranean. There was growing social unrest in Pales- 
tine, a renewed split between the two Hebrew kingdoms, 
democratic and puritanical agitations among certain re- 
ligious leaders, generally inspired, it would seem, by those 
closer to the pastoral desert peoples. There was also a con- 
siderable growth in religious animosities, chiefly because 
of the survival of Canaanite fertility ideas among agricul- 
tural peoples and because of Phoenician influences (as 
exercised through persons like Queen Jezebel). In addition 
to these troubles there were growing external dangers, in- 
cluding renewed Egyptian invasions under Necho (608 
B.C.), increasing Aramean pressures and, above all, the 
continued savage assaults of the Assyrians. In a series of 
brutal attacks the Levantine cities were looted, sacked, made 
tributary, and their leading citizens deported. The northern 
kingdom of Palestine (then called Samaria) was destroyed 
in 722 and the southern one (Judaea) in 586. The more 
prominent citizens, perhaps one-tenth of the population, 
were deported to Babylon, the rest, mostly peasants, being 
left in Palestine. As a result of their exile, the upper classes 
became increasingly rigid in their religious orthodoxy. Ac- 
cordingly, when some of these returned from their Baby- 
lonian captivity after the Persian conquest of Assyria in 
538, controversy broke out between the more casual Pales- 
tinian peasantry and the more rigid Babylonian exiles. The 
chief disagreements were concerned with methods of sacri- 

Canaanite and Minoan Civilizations *253 

fice, use of images, and permission to marry non-Jews. All 
of these things added to the conflicts in the core area of 
Canaanite society, until that society had been almost torn 
to pieces by 500 B.C., although Tyre, situated on an island 
half a mile from the Levantine shore, continued to domi- 
nate the maritime commerce of the eastern Mediterranean 
until destroyed by Alexander the Great in 332 B.C. 
In the meantime the periods of expansion and conflict 
were occurring at somewhat later dates in the more periph- 
eral west. The Age of Expansion probably continued there 
until about 600 B.C., and was followed by a rather brief age 
of conflict. This was short, lasting little more than a century, 
because there was no other Canaanite state in the west in 
any position to challenge Carthage's claim to universal 
empire in that peripheral area and because the social tri- 
umph of the commercial oligarchy within Carthage made 
class struggles insignificant. 

Carthage is to be regarded as the universal empire of 
Canaanite society despite its lack of political influence in the 
core areas in the Levant, since the strategically indefensible 
position of the Levant in the face of Assyrian power made 
it hopeless for Carthage to have any political ambitions 
there. A parallel situation could arise in our own Western 
civilization if Soviet domination of Europe left the United 
States as the only significant political force in the Western 

There can be no doubt that Carthage, as a political unit, 
was a part of Canaanite society. The inhabitants spoke a 
Canaanite tongue and called themselves Canaanites, al- 
though we usually speak of them by the name of the city and 
refer to their language by the Latin term "Punic." Their 

254 • The Evolution of Civilizations 

organization of expansion was the same institutionalized 
commercial capitalism. Their religion was clearly Canaanite, 
full of bloodthirsty superstitions concerned with various 
"baals," especially Moloch. This god, who was worshiped 
by throwing infants into his raging fires, was the principal 
deity of Carthage and Tyre and was not unknown in Pales- 
tine; there Solomon erected an altar to him, and other Israel- 
ites joined in his horrible sacrifices. This is only some of the 
evidence showing that Carthage, as a political unit, was in 
Canaanite culture. 

5. Decay and Invasion 

By 500 B.C. the period of decay was about to begin. 
Twenty years later (480), in both east and west, the Canaan- 
ite peoples suffered severe military defeats that serve as 
historical pointers to the downward way. In the east the 
Phoenician fleet in the service of Persia was destroyed by 
the Greeks at Salamis, while in the west Carthaginian forces 
were destroyed at Himera in Sicily by the forces of the 
western Greeks. These two events, which folk tales placed 
on the same day, marked a collision between declining 
Canaanite culture in its age of early decay and rising Class- 
ical civilization in its full flush of expansion. The final blow 
in this conflict did not fall until almost four centuries later. 
Canaanite culture slowly died in the east after Alexander 
destroyed Tyre in 332, and the same culture died more 
quickly in the west after Rome sacked Carthage in the 
Third Punic War (146 B.C.). By the time of Christ only 
a few remnants of this strange distorted civilization still 

Canaanite and Minoan Civilizations *255 

B. Minoan Civilization 

It is unfortunate that we know so little about the Cretan, 
or Minoan, civilization, for it has a number of distinctions 
of considerable significance. It was the first civilization that 
was not in an alluvial river valley, and, probably as a con- 
sequence, it retained its Neolithic Garden culture character 
more than any other. For one thing, it was peaceful, some- 
thing that can hardly be said about other civilizations. It 
remained basically matriarchal, in the sense that women 
had at least social equality, if not social superiority; its chief 
deity was female; and women undoubtedly had greater 
political influence than in any other ancient civilization. Its 
religion was so unformalized that it had no temples and, so 
far as our evidence goes, no formal religious ceremonies. 
And to complete a rather paradoxical picture, its instrument 
of expansion seems to have been a socialistic state, yet its 
people, instead of being oppressed and regimented, had an 
outlook that was remarkably happy, optimistic, and care- 

The statement that the instrument of expansion of Cretan 
civilization was a socialistic state is based on the fact that 
almost all handicraft production, commercial activities, and 
written records seem to be centered in large public build- 
ings, such as the so-called palace at Cnossus in Crete. The 
ruins of this prehistoric Pentagon Building were excavated 
by Sir Arthur Evans after 1900. It is traditional among En- 
glish archaeologists to call every large building that is 
excavated either a temple or a palace, and, since Sir Arthur 
found no evidence of religious ceremonies in this large build- 
ing, it had to be a "palace" and its resident had to be a 

256 The Evolution of Civilizations 

"king." This "king," according to Evans, was the legendary 
"Minos," a Cretan ruler well known in Greek traditions of 
the historic period. But these traditions seem to indicate 
that "Minos" was a title (like Pharaoh or President), not a 
personal name, and that the office was, at least in one period, 
an elective rather than a hereditary one. Homer tells us quite 
specifically that Minos served for nine years, so that he 
could have been a nonhereditary magistrate. This is sup- 
ported by the evidence from the palace itself, since there is 
little trace of a personal ruler or of any effort to concentrate 
power, prestige, or honor about any single individual. Sir 
Arthur Evans called a small room containing a stone chair 
the "throne room," but the small size both of room and chair 
make it look rather like a place where someone might sit 
down in the morning to tie his shoelaces. There is a great 
deal of art in the palace, but none of it could be interpreted 
as "monarchial." In fact pictures of individuals, especially 
males, are rather rare. There are some representations of 
females dressed in what, even today, would be considered 
daring costumes, but most of the pictures are of nature in its 
most beautiful moods: the sea, shot through with sparkling 
sunlight and enlivened with fish, squid, and other forms of 
marine life; or lake shores with flowers and birds; or wild 
life in the countryside. Human figures appear occasionally, 
especially in connection with athletic events, notably with a 
rodeolike scene in which youths and maidens vault over the 
head of a bull by grasping its horns and somersaulting over 
its head, to land on its back — facing rearward — and hop 
off. This latter scene is frequently explained as a religious 
ceremony, and it may well be — but here, as elsewhere, there 
is no centralization of personality such as would almost in- 
evitably appear in a monarchial regime and which is so 

Canaanite and Minoan Civilizations «257 

obvious in other socialistic civilizations such as the Egyp- 
tian, the Andean, or the Russian. 

1. Mixture 

The period of mixture of Cretan society goes back almost 
to the first settlements on the island, and may continue as 
late as the third millennium. Rough dates could be set from 
before 3500 B.C. (perhaps as early as 4000) to after 3000. 
The elements that came together on this small island of 
Crete were (1) a mixed group from Anatolia who may 
have been in the mesolithic cultural stage, with a few early 
domestic animals and pottery made to look like leather 
bags; (2) a Neolithic Garden culture of the usual type, the 
major ingredient in the subsequent Cretan culture; (3) a 
significant Asiatic influence, possibly associated with the 
megalithic diffusion, bringing knowledge of metals; and (4) 
an Egyptian influence, which is sometimes attributed, with- 
out evidence, to refugees from the unification of Egypt by 
Menes, just before 3000 B.C. The last two of these influences 
continued to flow for much of the early portion of Minoan 
history, so that Cretan art, for example, continued to show 
Egyptian influences, while Minoan writing, like that of 
Mesopotamia, was made by impressions on clay tablets. 
These civilizing influences did not change the basic Neo- 
lithic Garden foundation of Cretan culture except by build- 
ing upon it, and the new society remained peaceful and 
cooperative. The most significant question, which to my 
knowledge has never been answered (or even asked), is 
how it was possible for a nonalluvial garden culture to adopt 
the fully sedentary life necessary for civilized existence. In 

258- The Evolution of Civilizations 

a blunt sentence: Why did not the early Minoans exhaust 
the fertility of the soil and have to shift their fields as their 
neolithic ancestors did? The answer probably is that they 
developed a new diet which put less pressure on soil fertility. 
This diet was based on olive oil, grape wine, fish, and wheat, 
and proved so successful that it has remained the staple diet 
of the Mediterranean area to the present time. It is a very 
significant diet in a number of ways beyond its biologic 
adequacy for man: two of its elements were liquids, obtained 
from perennial plantings, while a third was derived from the 
sea. Oil and wine required sedentary farming and, at the 
same time, created a demand for pottery containers, which 
undoubtedly gave an impulse to craft specialization in this 
direction. In the palace at Cnossus was row after row of 
man-high pottery jars that had been filled with oil, wine, and 
wheat. The use of fish for the protein element in their diet 
served to tie the economy to the sea and provided the water- 
craft and maritime skills that allowed the Cretans to become 
the commercial middlemen of the Mediterranean basin 
when the need arose. And it is possible, although not clear 
from the evidence, that the grain fields could have been re- 
fertilized by products from the sea, such as burned seaweed. 
At any rate the Cretan people in their earliest centuries 
began to work out an economic system that moved them 
toward cooperation, specialized activities, and dependence 
on the sea without population pressure on the soil. 

2. Gestation 

As in so many civilizations, the period of gestation of 
Minoan society must rest on inference. The argument that 

Canaanite and Minoan Civilizations • 259 

the instrument of expansion was the public authority is itself 
based on inference, although a fairly obvious one, but we 
can hardly go behind this inference to any more remote ones 
about origins. All that we can say is that the cooperative 
elements of neolithic peasant agriculture were developed 
in the political security of an island existence and, probably 
under the influence of the sea, toward the development of a 
cooperative, nonmonarchical, nonmilitaristic, and nonec- 
clesiastical public authority. We do not know if there was 
only a single such authority for the whole island or several 
of them. The archaeological evidence shows several centers 
in which urban centralized living developed on the island — 
at Cnossus and Mallia in the north and at Phaistos and Hagia 
Triada in the south. The existence of "palaces" in all of these 
does not necessarily indicate separate political units, espe- 
cially if these buildings were administrative centers, as we 
have suggested. There is a basic pattern in them all, and 
the later ones may merely be decentralized administrative 
centers constructed by one political system. It has been 
suggested, largely because of the existence of a hard-surface 
road across the island from Phaistos to Cnossus, that these 
two were merely seasonal residences for the same ruler. 
None of this kind of supposition gets us very far. The only 
established facts are that these various centers were un- 
fortified and clearly lived in peaceful relationships and that 
the whole island, by the second millennium, was a single 
political unit. Since this political unity was achieved without 
clear evidence of warfare, it is possible that it grew up in the 
early periods of Minoan history. The lack of fortifications 
would also indicate that the island had a unified control of 
the sea and thus could protect itself against enemies from 

260' The Evolution of Civilizations 

3. Expansion 

By 2300 B.C., after a thousand years of existence, Cretan 
society was launched on a brilliant period of commercial 
expansion, cultural progress, and artistic accomplishment. 
It had a system of numbers and writing that is still beyond 
our ability to understand and may remain so, especially if 
the language used was an unknown Asian language, as 
seems possible. We know about a hundred words in the 
language, many of them place names or names of objects 
used by later Greeks, but these do not seem to be related to 
any known languages. Words ending in "-inth," like Corinth, 
hyacinth, plinth, and labyrinth, or words ending in "-assa," 
like the Greek word for sea, thalassa, were originally Mi- 
noan. The writing, which was probably originally ideo- 
graphic and rather pictographic, became increasingly linear, 
changing by jumps rather than by gradual development, as 
might be expected under a centralized political system. 
The commercial prosperity of Crete continued to grow 
in the first half of the second millennium and was benefited 
rather than harmed by the Bronze Age invasions. These 
intrusions did not reach Crete itself, and the disturbances 
of the Hurrians in the Levant and the Hyksos in Egypt 
made it possible for Crete to expand its economic life by 
adding craft activities to its commercial functions. Its prod- 
ucts, including such objects as pottery, bronze weapons, 
engraved gems, and jewelry, were in great demand. The 
prosperity of the Bohemian Bronze Age and the growing 
trade of the Canaanite cities of Syria created new opportuni- 
ties for Cretan traders. The "palaces" at various points were 
rebuilt on a more elaborate scale, especially at Cnossus and 
Phaistos. These two cities, forty miles apart, were joined 

Canaanite and Minoan Civilizations • 261 

by a highway of paved cobblestones provided with bridges. 
At the Cnossus end of this road stood an elaborate building, 
probably a hotel, offering all the conveniences necessary to 
the weary traveler, including baths and dinner in a beautiful 
large hall decorated with realistic frescoes of game birds. 
At Cnossus itself the "palace" was a low, flat-topped 
structure covering about five acres. It had a system of baths 
and drains, flushed with water from rain tanks on the roofs. 
The naturalistic mural paintings were infused with nature, 
the open air, sunshine, and happiness; none showed warfare 
or death, religion, darkness, power, or majesty as were 
commonly shown on the paintings of the other early civili- 
zations. The fertility goddess was still worshiped, but the 
idea of her was quite changed. Gone was the pregnant earth 
mother, replaced by a glamorous female, slim and straight, 
attired in a modish dress with a low-cut neckline, a tight 
bodice, and a long, full skirt with many flounces. Her hair, 
piled in curls on her head, was fastened by gold pins. Even 
serious French books call her "La Parisienne." 
This Cretan goddess was associated with snakes, birds, 
pillars, sacred trees, and the symbols of a double ax. These 
symbols came from Asia but were given an additional light- 
ness and elegance in Crete. The double-ax symbol was 
marked plentifully on the walls of the palace. The building 
itself was called "Labyrinth" in the Minoan language, an 
expression which meant "House of the Double Ax." With 
its numerous rooms and long corridors on various levels, 
this building seemed like a maze to the naive Greek- speak- 
ing barbarians when they first saw it, since they were prob- 
ably familiar with no house of more than two rooms. They 
took the word "labyrinth" to mean a maze where one 
became lost. We still use the word in this sense today. 

262 • The Evolution of Civilizations 

Beyond the "Labyrinth" was the city, a center of two- and 
three-story rectangular houses, providing every evidence of 
a prosperous, happy, secular free society. This society, in 
the course of the second millennium, found its growth ar- 
rested by the slowing up of its rate of expansion. 

4. Conflict and Universal Empire 

It is very difficult for us to distinguish with any confidence 
the middle stages in the evolution of Minoan civilization. 
Our natural ignorance of the history of a society unknown 
through written evidence is intensified by the ambiguities 
to be expected in a civilization whose instrument of expan- 
sion was a socialist state. Of the general characteristics of 
the Age of Conflict, such as decreasing expansion, imperial- 
ist wars, class conflicts, and irrationality, we know almost 
nothing. There may have been class disturbances or even 
interurban wars, but the evidence does not allow us to say 
so with any assurance. Just before the middle of the second 
millennium, layers of ashes indicate severe fires in most 
Cretan urban centers, but we cannot be sure if these resulted 
from class disturbances or war, or from foreign invasions 
or even from earthquakes. The possibility of these fires 
coming from earthquakes seems to be reduced by the fact 
that fortifications and a sharp rise in the occurrence of 
weapons seems to have appeared briefly in the Middle 
Minoan period. Moreover, a couple of centuries later, the 
style of writing made one of its periodic changes in Cnossus, 
adopting a form known as Lineal B, which we now know 
was used to write the Greek language. As Cnossus was not 
sacked at that time, although it was somewhat later, about 
1430 B.C., we do not believe that these Greek speakers 

Canaanite and Minoan Civilizations *263 

came in as invaders, but rather that they migrated in peace- 
fully, perhaps by serving as workers or mercenary marines 
for the Cretan state. 

A reconstruction of the history of the Aegean area during 
the second millennium from the archaeological evidence on 
the island of Crete and also on the mainland of Greece, 
especially in Argos, can be made with a certain degree of 
confidence. The Bronze Age invaders who came down into 
the Balkans from the north during the first half of the second 
millennium were the first Greek- speaking persons to enter 
the area. We call them the Achaeans. On the whole, they 
probably came in small bands or even as isolated warriors 
in a peaceful way, with no desire to destroy the growing 
trade over the routes from Crete to the Central European 
Bronze Age. By military prowess and by marriage with the 
daughters of the matrilineal natives and Cretan colonists, 
these Greeks gradually established control over the area 
and over the commercial routes. Although the trade con- 
tinued, the Achaeans extorted tribute from it and were able 
to use this wealth to build a barbaric, semicivilized Cretan- 
Achaean society. This mixed culture is generally known 
as Mycenaean, after its chief city at the head of the Gulf of 
Argos. Elsewhere, as at Athens to the northeast, the Cretans 
either retained or reestablished control and were themselves 
in a position to demand tribute. In any case, for some time a 
modus vivendi existed in which both peoples could enjoy the 
expanding commerce. 

In this process the Achaeans became Cretanized and are 
called Mycenaeans. They seem to have gradually adopted 
the Cretan diet by replacing meat and animal products with 
the fruit of the vine, the olive tree, and the sea; they adopted 
the use of stone buildings and more naturalistic paintings, 
but the buildings were fortresses and the pictures were of 

264' The Evolution of Civilizations 

war, hunting, races, or other violent scenes. They largely 
shifted from cremation to burial of the dead, but they kept 
their beards, their patriarchal social patterns, and the loose, 
pinned clothing of Flatland pastoralists (rather than the 
fitted, buttoned clothing of Crete). 

By 1450 this mixed Mycenaean culture covered much of 
Greece and had become, at least socially, the dominant ele- 
ment in Cnossus. The political structure seems to have been 
one of autonomous feudal princes surrounded by their war- 
loving retainers, the whole under the nominal overlordship 
of Mycenae and supporting a life of luxury, idleness, and 
warlike adventure by the tribute imposed on Cretan com- 
merce. The political relationship of Mycenae with Crete and 
the role of Cnossus are ambiguous. The mainland city may 
have functioned as an undependable ally or it may have 
already taken over political power in Cnossus by peaceful 
means, either through slow immigration or by marriage into 
the commercial oligarchy of the country. By 1430 some 
Mycenaeans were no longer satisfied with their role. Taking 
advantage of political difficulties that Minos encountered in 
Sicily, and using their recently acquired knowledge of sea- 
faring, some of the Greek speakers arose in revolt, sacked 
Cnossus, and permanently moved the center of Minoan 
civilization to the mainland. The next period is accordingly 
known as the Mycenaean age (1430-1150 B.C.), and 
represents the Age of Decay of Minoan society. 

5. Decay and Invasion 

The Mycenaean peoples could sack and destroy, but they 
could not organize or control the complicated Minoan 
economic structure. This structure, based on commerce, 

Canaanite and Minoan Civilizations «265 

required security and order along its trade routes or it could 
not function. Such security had been provided on the sea 
by the Minoan fleet, but now the unruly Mycenaean warriors 
began to seize rather than to nurture commerce. As piracy 
rose, trade declined. On land the long trade route from 
Argos to central Europe had been maintained because of 
recognition of mutual benefits and, above all, by realization 
that small demands for tribute would provide income for an 
indefinite period, while total seizure of goods would kill the 
activities once for all. 

Although Cretan craftsmen continued for a long time to 
turn out work of high quality, the themes of this art became 
increasingly violent, turning from sun-drenched nature to 
scenes of war and the hunt. In time, artistic techniques de- 
clined, realism being replaced by heraldic beasts and geo- 
metric designs. The system was increasingly supported by 
piracy, plunder, and imposed tribute. Having crippled one 
great trade route to the north by the destruction of Cnossus 
about 1430, the Mycenaeans could hardly permit the rival 
route to continue, and about 1184 they captured and sacked 
the second great commercial city of the Aegean, Troy. This 
city, of Anatolian rather than Aegean culture, existed from 
early in the third millennium, and its many levels of occupa- 
tion give the archaeologist a dramatic picture of its tu- 
multuous history. Its greatest city, the second on the site, 
had been destroyed by the Hittite invaders about 1900; its 
sixth city, a relatively prosperous town, was destroyed by an 
earthquake about 1365. It was rebuilt almost immediately 
but was sacked, as described in Homer's Iliad, by the Greeks 
in the twelfth century. This event marked the end of the 
great Bronze Age archaic cultures everywhere in the West. 
Shortly afterward the Iron Age invaders, the Dorians, 
Phrygians, Carians, and Lydians, poured out from the upper 

266- The Evolution of Civilizations 

Balkans and wiped out the Trojan, Hittite, and Mycenaean 
cultures together. A Dark Ages descended on the whole area 
west of the Levant for almost two centuries (1 100-900 


The process by which civilization, as an abstract entity 
distinct from the societies in which it is embodied, dies or is 
reborn is a very significant one. There are at least five steps 
in the process. Civilizations die as (1) decreasing political 
security and the ending of law and order make property 
precarious and make personal violence an increasingly 
significant element in life; accordingly (2) long-distance 
trade decreases; as a result (3) town life becomes precarious 
and there is a general exodus from the towns as people try 
to find a place in which they can be attached in some stable 
social and economic relationship to the food-producing 
earth; obviously (4) there is a decline and even a disap- 
pearance of the middle classes (the property-owning, com- 
mercial, literate, city-dwelling group); and (5) illiteracy 
rises rapidly. Civilization reappears through the same five 
steps, each in reverse: (1) law and order are reestablished; 
(2) commerce increases; (3) cities appear and grow; (4) a 
middle class, between soil tillers and fighting men, reappears; 
and (5) literacy reappears as a technique of record keeping 
and distant communication for the middle class. 
This process has passed through these steps several times, 
two of them at the two extremities of the life of Classical 
civilization. This civilization, as is well known, had a "Dark 
Ages" at each end; the first, about 1100-900 B.C., marked 
the division between Cretan civilization and Classical cul- 
ture, and the second, about a.d. 700 to 950, marked the 
division between Classical civilization and Western. Each 
"Dark Age" is the period between the five- step fall and the 

Canaanite and Minoan Civilizations • 267 

five- step rise of civilization of which we speak. In the earlier 
of the two, the political disorder that initiated the five-step 
sequence is associated with the Mycenaean exploitation and 
the Dorian invasions. Then, generations later, law and order 
were reestablished in the Mediterranean by the activities of 
the Phoenicians, and the five- stage sequence continued until 
Classical culture was established. The second "Dark Ages," 
at the end of Classical culture, was initiated by the political 
insecurity associated with the Germanic invasions and the 
fall of Roman political power in the West (a.d. 476); it was 
ended, and Western civilization begun, by the same five- step 
sequence beginning about A.D . 970. 

The Iron Age invasions on both sides of the Aegean Sea 
established the basis on which the subsequent Classical civi- 
lization was to rise. In the Balkans itself the invaders (Dor- 
ians) came only a short distance from the north, but they 
came with such force and such destructive violence that the 
great mass of them ended up in southern Greece and in 
Crete itself. Thus in the Classical period these were Doric- 
speaking areas and still retained the crudities of their an- 
cestors. The chief state and leader of this group came to be 
Sparta. On the other hand, the Dorians drove southward so 
rapidly that they did not turn eastward into the islands and 
peninsulas of eastern Greece, and large enclaves of Myce- 
naean (that is mixed Achaean-Cretan) culture persisted. In 
the Classical period these survivals are known as Ionian, 
and became the highest representatives of later Greek cul- 
ture, undoubtedly because of the survival of elements of 
Cretan culture. Some Mycenaeans, driven from their homes 
in Greece by the Dorian advance, crossed the Aegean and 
settled on the middle shores of the western coast of Anatolia 
(Asia Minor). These are also called Ionians, and the shore 

268- The Evolution of Civilizations 

on which they settled is known as Ionia. Thus, closely re- 
lated Ionian peoples, with a similar culture and a common 
dialect, lived on both the eastern and western shores of the 
middle Aegean Sea after 1000 B.C. It was among these 
people, possessing strong elements of Minoan culture, that 
the new Classical civilization was born. This culture was 
passed on to the later society, not only by surviving vestiges 
of social customs and personal outlook, but more explicitly 
through the works of Homer. These works, written in Ionia 
after the Dorian invasions, are based on memories of the 
great deeds of the Cretanized Achaeans before the invasions. 

Classical Civilization 

/Classical civilization, which occupied the shores of the 
^-'Mediterranean Sea for almost a millennium and a half 
(950 b.c.-a.d. 550), follows the pattern of seven stages 
fairly closely, with no major distortions of the process. The 
only significant variation arises from the shape of the Medi- 
terranean Sea itself, and this would not have given rise to a 
major distortion if it had not been reinforced by the fact that 
the Phoenicians (who provided the original impetus toward 
a revival of civilization in the Mediterranean basin) came 
from the extreme eastern end of the sea. 
A glance at any map of the Mediterranean shows that it 
consists of two great basins divided by the line Calabria- 
Sicily-Tunis. This geographic schism was strengthened in the 
historic period by the fact that the eastern basin became 
Greek- speaking while the western basin became Latin. Most 
important of all, since Classical civilization originated near 
Phoenician influence in the eastern part of the eastern basin 
and spread along the west-running seaways, the core area 
and the peripheral areas of Mediterranean civilization be- 
came separated from each other by more than the usual 
chronological lag. Cultural distinctions as well as chrono- 

270 The Evolution of Civilizations 

logical ones are characteristic of these two portions of any 
civilization, but usually the periphery tends to surround the 
core, and such extreme geographic separation does not 
arise. This fact was, of course, also important in Canaanite 
civilization, where the core was in the Levant while the uni- 
versal empire arose in the West. In Classical civilization the 
tendency for the society to split into eastern and western 
parts was always strong; it was counterbalanced, until the 
society was in its final stage, by the relative superiority of 
water transportation over land transportation. As a conse- 
quence of this, any part of the Mediterranean shore was 
likely to be more closely linked with any other part than it 
would be, by land communications, with its own hinterlands. 
The instrument of expansion of Classical civilization was 
a social organization, slavery. This came into existence in 
the period of mixture as a consequence of the invasions of 
the Iron Age intruders. It remained an instrument so long 
as the slaveowners worked closely with their slaves, often 
in the fields themselves, as Cincinnatus was doing when ap- 
pointed dictator, because then the surplus from the slave 
labor which accumulated to the owner from his legal rights 
over his slaves could be used for some productive use, since 
the owner's personal knowledge of the agricultural process 
permitted him to judge where such investment could best be 
made. But in the later period, when the slaves were operated 
in gangs in charge of a steward — usually a freed slave — 
with the owner absent from the estate for long periods, out- 
put suffered, investment decreased or was improperly 
applied, and expansion slowed up. After several centuries 
of this, the slave system became a highly inefficient method 
of agricultural production, with output, expressed either in 
terms of unit areas or in terms of labor expended, consider- 

Classical Civilization »271 

ably below that of neighboring farms operated by their 
owners on a family basis. Pliny tells us that output per area 
was much greater on family farms than it was on latifundia. 
Slaveowners, whose prestige, economic independence, and 
leisure for political activity depended on their slaves, were 
determined to resist any efforts to free their slaves or to 
divide up their estates into family-size farms. The argument 
for greater production would have left them unmoved even 
if it had been made. Even if the landlords had obtained 
compensation for loss of their lands and slaves, there was 
no other practical way in which they could have invested 
their funds because of the great technological backwardness 
of the Classical economy. This excluded redistribution of 
land and freeing of slaves as practical large-scale alterna- 
tives to the latifundia system, and meant that the system 
could not be liquidated by any voluntary method but only by 
confiscation and violence, as finally occurred. But before it 
did occur Classical civilization had been destroyed by the 
struggles over this issue and especially by the vain efforts of 
the slaveowning group to prevent their own liquidation as 
a social and economic group. Moreover, replacement of the 
latifundia by peasant farms would have been no real solution 
because it would have resulted in a more equitable distribu- 
tion of the society's income and ended most accumulation 
of capital. The only good solution was replacement of the 
slave institution by another instrument of expansion, but 
that meant the replacement of Classical civilization by an- 
other civilization. 

It has sometimes been argued that slavery could not pos- 
sibly have played the central role in Classical civilization 
which we are attributing to it, because the number of slaves 
in the society was relatively small and many of them were 

272 The Evolution of Civilizations 

well treated or were used in essentially nonproductive ac- 
tivities, such as household tasks. These objections are quite 
beside the point, and are unconvincing even when they are 
supported by elaborate statistical studies. Such statistical 
studies are based on the available written evidence, mostly 
Athenian, and do show that the slaves were only a minority 
of the Athenian population (about one-quarter) and were 
often household servants. Such studies overlook less specific 
evidence tending to show that the percentage of slaves was 
probably higher in many rural areas, especially in Dorian 
states. In Sparta, for example, the number of Helots was 
certainly several times the number of Spartan citizens, even 
in the early period, and the proportion increased in the later 
period as the number of Spartan citizens decreased. And 
in Roman Italy there is good evidence that the countryside 
lost much of its peasant population and increased its number 
of slaves during several centuries following the end of the 
Second Punic War (201 B.C.). 

Moreover, even if the most moderate estimates produced 
by the later-day apologists for Classical slavery are taken as 
correct, this in no way would reduce the significance of 
slavery as the instrument of expansion of Classical civiliza- 
tion. All that we require of such an instrument is that it 
be an important (or perhaps the most important) mecha- 
nism in accumulating and investing savings in the society. 
Such a role, I believe, cannot be withheld from Classical 
slavery. Other organizations performed similar functions 
in Mediterranean civilization, as they do in all societies, but 
the important role played by slavery in the organizational 
dynamics of Classical antiquity can hardly be denied. 
The attempts to deny it, which are frequently quite emo- 
tional, even when they are made by classicists who pride 

Classical Civilization '273 

themselves on their objectivity, are but one class of examples 
of a notable weakness in Classical studies. This weakness 
arises from the failure, by the average classicist, to seek a 
complete and rounded view of Classical society. Instead it 
is usual to specialize one's attention on a few aspects of the 
subject, preferably on literature or philosophy or archae- 
ology or even on only part of one of these: on Greek thought 
but not on Latin, on Plato but not on Virgil, on Aristotle but 
not on Theophrastus or Pythagoras or Archimedes, on 
Athenian excavations but not on Anatolian or on Etruscan 

And, of course, students who deal with these humanist 
areas have little time for other aspects of Classical society, 
such as science or mathematics or education, and are most 
unlikely to have any concern with such mundane matters as 
technology, economic organization, or the dynamics of 
social classes. Yet no adequate picture of Classical antiquity 
can be reconstructed without attention to all its aspects. 
This is a weakness in Classical studies that has been 
remedied to some extent in recent years. But certainly not 
sufficiently remedied. We still hear a good deal of emotional 
talk about the "Greek miracle" or the "Greek genius." The 
"Greek miracle" is a term applied to the erroneous belief 
that Greek culture sprang up, fully formed, in no more than 
a couple of generations out of complete barbarism. This is 
based upon erroneous ideas about the nature of Greek 
culture, the speed with which it arose, and the background 
from which it emerged. To mention only one point: any 
culture that came from a mixture of Cretan, Phoenician, 
and Indo-European elements did not start from nothing, or 
from barbarism. As for "Greek genius," there can be no 
doubt that for a brief period, for a select social group, in a 

274 • The Evolution of Civilizations 

restricted area, there was a great opportunity for men to de- 
velop their higher capacities, but there is no need for awe- 
struck tones implying that some hereditary, biological burst 
of genius hit, like lightning, among the Greeks in Classical 
antiquity, without leaving any traces of its passage among 
their descendants over the next two thousand years. 
The importance of the Minoan-Mycenaean contribution 
to Greek culture can hardly be overemphasized. From it 
came many later ideas about the gods and much mythology. 
Not only did the mythology provide the materials for later 
Greek art and literature, but Homer, who came from this 
earlier world, remained the inspiration and model of the 
Greeks throughout their history. This is of the greatest im- 
portance: Homer was not only the earliest figure in Greek 
literature; he was also the latest figure in an earlier literature. 
There is nothing primitive, experimental, or unsophisticated 
in Homer. His poems are not popular folk epics; they are 
aristocratic heroic sagas. Their chief figures are emanci- 
pated, free from social restraints, individualistic, far re- 
moved from any tribe or clan with its unexamined social 
customs or its clinging to the routine of static social life and 
equally free from any materialistic concerns and from the 
superstitions and social taboos of economic gain. Their gods 
are humanistic, and their society is secularized. These are 
barbarians who have taken over the wealth of the Minoan 
society and are breaking it up, just as their own tribal units 
have already broken up. They are enjoying their new, and 
unearned, wealth, power, and freedom. They have a "joy 
in life and pride in individual brilliance." They have freed 
themselves completely from the customs of their barbarian 
forebears; they have no understanding or sympathy for the 
customs of the submerged lower classes who support them. 

Classical Civilization '275 

They are completely unconcerned with problems of produc- 
tion, with the origin of the wealth they enjoy, with popula- 
tion pressures. Freed from such concerns, they occupy 
themselves with self-expression and the pursuit of honor and 
personal glory. This is an aristocratic outlook that ever after 
dominated Greek culture. 

This outlook was, as we have said, Mycenaean. But be- 
neath it was an older, more elegant yet more irrational tra- 
dition, closer to nature and thus both more concrete, more 
colorful, but at the same time less free and much closer to 
magic, superstition, and the fertility rites associated with 
the mysteries of agricultural production. This is the Minoan 
tradition. From this Minoan tradition comes much that we 
regard as typically Greek — love of nature, of the sun- 
drenched land and the mysterious sea — but it also provided 
the rural superstitions, the mystery rites of fertility, the or- 
gies dimly associated with the intoxicants of Bacchus or the 
behavior excesses of Dionysius. The best of this tradition is 
found in Homer's literary expressions, figures of speech, and 
use of images. Artistic representation of these can be found 
in the art of the Minoan period and in the words of Homer. 
From the latter it passed on to the Greeks, so that when 
they, for example, thought of death and resurrection they 
thought of the poppy drooping with its seeds as the Minoans 
depicted it or as Homer described it. 

Classical culture is a Greek creation — more accurately it 
is an Ionian creation and became Greek largely because the 
culture created by the Ionian s was generally accepted by 
the literate and cultivated classes of all Greek- speaking 
peoples. This can be seen in the general admiration of 
Homer or Plato. Though this Greek culture was accepted by 
the Romans, it always remained for them an adopted cul- 

276 The Evolution of Civilizations 

ture, a garment that was put on and could be cast off without 
ever becoming an intimate or essential part of the wearer. 
Thus the history of the culture of the Romans (for example, 
in religion) is largely the history of how they found and 
adopted Greek culture. This history began only at a late 
date, about 200 B.C., when the Romans began to learn 
Greek; it reached its peak about 50 B.C. in Cicero, because 
Cicero fell in love with Greek culture and acquired a deep 
knowledge of Greek thought and the Greek language (with- 
out, it might be added, allowing these ever to become his 
own nature and outlook). Roman cultural history began to 
decline when Cicero died in a typically Roman way (mur- 
dered 43 B.C.), and it moved downward exactly in step with 
the decrease in Roman knowledge of Greek culture, with 
their decreasing interest in its message, and, most obviously, 
with the decrease in knowledge of the Greek language 
among educated Romans. This decrease in knowledge of 
Greek by Latin- speaking people marked not only a decline 
in Roman culture; it also marked the beginnings of the split 
between the Latin world and the Greek world which later 
appeared as a split between the Western Roman Empire 
(which disappeared in the fifth century) and the Eastern 
Roman, or Byzantine, Empire (which disappeared only in 
the fifteenth century), as well as the schism of the Christian 
church into Roman and Orthodox branches (that continues 

The Ionian culture that was adopted as their own by the 
Greek- speaking world, and put on like a garment by the 
Latin- speaking world, was never the culture of the whole 
Mediterranean basin because it was the culture of the liter- 
ate upper classes only. These were the slaveowning minority 
who knew how to read and write, who had leisure, and who 

Classical Civilization • 277 

used that leisure to read Homer, Plato, Cicero, and Virgil. 
The great mass of the inhabitants of the Mediterranean 
world did not share this culture; they were born, worked, 
had children, and died. This great mass included the rural 
inhabitants at all times and even the majority of city dwell- 
ers at most times. In other words, the Classical culture we 
so esteem was the culture of a small minority of city dwell- 
ers except for a brief period of a century and a half (480- 
330 B.C.) in Athens. In this brief period it may be that the 
majority of the inhabitants of that city had some idea of 
what we call Classical culture. Otherwise, in other cities 
generally, and in rural areas always, the masses of the people 
lived in a morass of ignorance and superstition that is diffi- 
cult for us to imagine. To them life was an irrational chaos 
of conflicting powers and forces of which the chief were a 
myriad of local gods and spirits. 

This substratum of irrationality and localism beneath the 
veneer of Classical culture must always be kept in mind if 
we are to appreciate properly the great achievement of the 
small minority that possessed this culture and if we are to 
understand how this culture was destroyed when this minor- 
ity was crushed and finally submerged by the rising tide of 
militarism, ruralism, and irrationality. 

Classical culture was a class culture and it was an urban 
culture. This was almost inevitable at a time when there was 
no general system of education (so that the majority was 
illiterate) and when all written material had to be copied 
by hand because of the lack of printing (so that it was too 
expensive for the majority to possess). Even for the minority 
most information came through conversation. Classical cul- 
ture was also isolated from the economic activities of every- 
day life, because it was an urban culture at a time when the 

278- The Evolution of Civilizations 

city had no real economic function, but was completely 
dependent for its economic support on the agricultural ac- 
tivities of the rural areas. The city did not pay for its agri- 
cultural imports by industrial exports or by commercial 
activities as a modern city does, except in a few cases of 
which the chief, once again, is Athens during the period 
480-300 B.C. Otherwise, as a usual thing the city existed 
as an economic parasite on the country and was able to 
import food because of its political or legal position rather 
than because of its economic activities. This is merely an- 
other way of saying that Classical culture was a class culture, 
possessed by a small minority of city residents whose legal 
and political rights permitted them to make economic de- 
mands on the rural population and who were able to build 
up Classical culture because their legal rights gave them the 
leisure to do so. The key to this leisure and to their privileged 
position is to be found in slavery. 

Many years ago I took an amazing course in which the 
whole history of German culture, its literature, music, art, 
and sculpture, was covered in a single semester from Sep- 
tember to January. The most amazing thing about this 
course was not the amount that was attempted or the pro- 
fessor who taught it, but how successfully it was done. As we 
raced along, Goethe was covered in fifteen minutes, Schiller 
in ten, Fichte in five. Later I tried to analyze how this had 
been done, and realized that the professor had a profound 
understanding of much that he discussed and that he cov- 
ered any topic simply by slicing it up into a small number of 
parts and giving a name to each part. The complex character 
and achievement of Goethe, for example, were divided into 
six portions, each was given a title, and, ever after, the whole 
of Goethe could be evoked merely by reciting six words. 

Classical Civilization *279 

The cultural synthesis that the Ionians created and 
handed on to the Greeks and that, however modified, re- 
mained very largely the culture of all of Classical antiquity 
is surely more complex than Goethe, but I should like to 
outdare even my former professor by dividing this greater 
complexity into only five parts. It seems to me that Classical 
culture was aristocratic; it was clarid; it was urban; it was 
balanced; and it was mundane. One of these words will not 
be found in any dictionary. When I say that Classical culture 
was "clarid," I mean that it was lucid, clear, rational, in 
some ways like the Mediterranean sunlight infusing the 
atmosphere to an astounding clarity. 

When we say that Classical culture was aristocratic, we 
mean much more than that it was the possession of an 
upper-class minority. We mean that this culture refused to 
regard either profit or power as goals of life, but rather 
tended to regard honor and the esteem of one's equals as at 
least equally worthy goals. It was quite willing to accept a 
goal for life and an organization of life that functioned 
economically on a deficit basis, that could not be made 
available to all men or was not comprehensible to all men, 
but that had to be supported by many men who could neither 
share in it nor understand it. This point of view had an 
aversion to anything practical or vocational; it regarded its 
goal (honor) as one whose appeal is not (like wealth or 
power) automatically appreciated but one that is achieved 
by breeding and discipline. It regarded man as by nature 
close to the gods but very remote from the animals; it did 
not accept the equality of men, but did insist on a fraternity 
of equals within the select group of participants. It empha- 
sized the dignity of the individual, at first only the individual 
within the chosen group; but later, as democratic influences 

280 • The Evolution of Civilizations 

spread, it tended to grant equality and individual dignity to 
all, not by bringing the outlook of ordinary men into the 
select group, but rather by spreading the outlook of the 
select group outward to ordinary men. To do this it was 
necessary, while allowing the select group to grow con- 
stantly larger, to continue to emphasize the superiority of 
the members of the group over outsiders. At first the group 
consisted only of those of noble birth; later it was the citizens 
of the city-state. As this group was expanded, emphasis con- 
tinued on the distinction between free men and slaves, be- 
tween Greek and barbarian, between those who had the 
political franchise and those who lacked it. Only when 
Classical culture was in its decline (after the time of Christ) 
did it begin to accept the equality of all men. Even then it 
insisted that all men had human dignity, had a kind of 
divinity, and were worthy of respect. Thus to the very end, 
Classical culture kept certain elements of its aristocratic out- 
look, and never, like the Hebrews, came to regard man as a 
helpless and cringing worm. One last characteristic of an 
aristocratic outlook that Classical culture maintained to the 
end was its belief in social retrogression rather than in social 
progress and its conviction that the golden age was to be 
found in the past rather than in the future. This gave the 
culture an underlying pessimism redeemed by the fact that 
man's fate, however hopeless, must be borne with dignity. 
This belief in a past golden age and the refusal to accept the 
idea of progress is to be found in Homer and Hesiod in a 
most explicit fashion and undoubtedly is the result of some 
dim social memory of the Cretan civilization or of Myce- 
naean culture. 

In saying that Classical culture was clarid, we mean that 
it possessed the qualities of rationality, lucidity, and clarity. 

Classical Civilization *281 

This culture sought explanations rather than sensations. 
These explanations were regarded as satisfactory if they led 
to some concept that could be grasped by man's conscious 
mind. Thus, for example, the immortality of the gods was 
explained on the grounds that gods ate a special food, am- 
brosia, that would also give immortality to men, if they could 
obtain it. 

When we say that this culture was urban, we mean that it 
was possessed by a city-dwelling group who knew one an- 
other personally, saw one another frequently, exchanged 
views by conversation or letter, rather than by media of 
mass communication, were remote from the productive 
system, either agriculture or commerce, and regarded loy- 
alty to the state and to its gods as the chief duty and chief 
privilege of existence. 

When we say that this culture was balanced, we mean 
that it held the golden mean in high esteem, that it regarded 
excess or extremes with distaste and felt that such excess 
could lead only to disaster and to retribution. The expres- 
sion "golden mean," the motto "nothing too much," the 
idea that excess leads to retribution (nemesis): these are 
all derived from Classical culture. This ideal of balance 
appeared in their ethics as nemesis; in their politics in the 
idea that justice was a balance of different elements; in their 
art as the principle of proportion; in their literature, espe- 
cially the drama, as the idea that nemesis is always the 
consequence of hybris (excess of personal pride and self- 
exaltation); in their social outlook in the belief that society 
was a balance of different groups or classes. 
When we say that this culture was mundane, we mean 
that it was humanistic, anthropocentric, and thisworldly. 
It regarded man as the center of everything; it interpreted 

282- The Evolution of Civilizations 

everything in terms of human aims; it had no real concern 
with life after death or with the gods, and had no real idea 
of eternity or of reward or punishment in the afterlife. It 
had no real idea of the nature of divinity until very late, and 
then achieved this idea as a consequence of an aristocratic 
pursuit of truth, a rationalistic pursuit by men with leisure 
and with no real regard for wealth or power. This mundane 
character of Classical culture meant that this culture, in 
extreme cases, was materialistic in its outlook; but it was 
able to escape the ordinary consequences of materialism 
because of its ideals of aristocracy and moderation. 
The creation of this synthesis from past elements, some 
of which (like Minoan or Mesopotamian) had a long 
history, explains why there were so few primitive elements 
in Greek culture and why, when these elements did occasion- 
ally emerge from the submerged or rural masses (as in the 
mystery religions), they were immediately modified or re- 
jected. This also explains why the oldest surviving Greek 
writer, Homer, was neither primitive nor unsophisticated, 
but had a simplicity, a gravity, a balance, a dignity, a sub- 
tlety, that made him appear as the culmination of a long 
epic tradition and the last example of a sophisticated culture. 
This indeed he was, a kind of post-mortem manifestation of 
the Mycenaean Age, looking back on it as a golden age, but 
nonetheless writing in Greek and thus capable of becoming, 
as he did become, the model for the future Classical culture. 

1. Mixture 

The period of mixture of Classical civilization covers the 
Iron Age invasions which destroyed Cretan civilization and 

Classical Civilization • 283 

continues onward into the period when the Phoenicians 
began to bring back the basic necessities of civilized living. 
In our usual arbitrary fashion we might say that the period 
of mixture lasted from 1200 to 900 and that the following 
Age of Gestation covered the next hundred years to about 
800 B.C. 

We have already said that Classical culture was Ionian. 
This means that the mixture that created it took place on 
the shores of the Aegean Sea, chiefly among people who 
spoke the Ionic dialect of Greek. This means that it was a 
synthesis from the activities of a relatively small number of 
persons in a relatively small area. It also means, as is gen- 
erally true when one civilization descends from a prede- 
cessor, that the peripheral area of Cretan civilization became 
the core area of Classical civilization. 

The elements that mixed to form Classical society were 
at least four: (1) Minoan; (2) Indo-European; (3) Meso- 
potamian; and (4) Semitic. None of these, except perhaps 
the last, was a direct influence; the others were indirect, 
filtered through intermediaries. The Minoan influence came 
through the Mycenaean Age, that is, in the Greek language 
and with heroic and warlike elements replacing the feminist 
and pacifist elements of Minoan. The Indo-European was 
also diluted by coming through the Mycenaean Age rather 
than as the direct influence of a warrior people such as we 
find in the Dorian Greeks. This means that the rationalist 
and individualist tendencies found in the Indo-Europeans 
were intensified by the weakening of the social and tribal 
beliefs usual among a more primitive people. This influence 
was passed on to the Greeks, largely through Homer. The 
Mesopotamian contribution came across Anatolia (where it 
picked up all kinds of dark superstitions and irrational 

284 • The Evolution of Civilizations 

rites), as well as through the Phoenicians. The Semitic in- 
fluence also came by way of the Phoenicians, which means 
that it came through a practical, hardheaded, unimaginative, 
and businesslike people. 

It would be a difficult task to enumerate what Greek cul- 
ture owed to each of these four; it would also be misleading, 
because the Ionians took each element, modified it, and 
merged it into a new synthesis. From the Mesopotamians 
came much science and astronomy, weights and measures 
(such as the twelve-hour day and night, and the use of sixty 
for fractional parts), and considerable technology. From 
the Indo-European came many pastoral elements, including 
the religious dominance of a sky god (dyas = deus = 
Zeus); a patriarchal and masculine-dominated social sys- 
tem; extreme emphasis on honor, competitiveness, heroism, 
and war; and above all, rationalism. The last of these is so 
important that it deserves more detailed consideration. 
There can be little doubt that the rationalism of the 
Greeks, which became one of the general qualities of 
Classical culture, was derived from their Indo-European 
heritage. The same quality is found among the early Persians 
(for example, in the Zoroastrian religion) in an even more 
definite way, and the Persians are the only Indo-European 
group, on whom we have adequate information, that was 
less culturally mixed than the Greeks. Of the other Indo- 
European groups, the Mitanni were more purely Indo- 
European, but we know very little about them; the Hittites 
and Aryans were subjected to great cultural mixture, and we 
have inadequate information on them. The early Romans 
were much less clearly Indo-European than the Greeks, 
were much less rational, and our information is much less 
satisfactory. The correlation, so far as our knowledge goes, 

Classical Civilization '285 

between degree of Indo-European influence in a culture and 
the rationalism in the culture seems fairly close. 
We may concede, then, that Greek rationalism was Indo- 
European in origin, but this does not explain why the Indo- 
Europeans had this tendency. A somewhat similar 
inclination is to be found among the Semites, and there too 
its degree seems to be correlated with the degree of purity of 
the Semite culture. The closer any Semite people were to 
their original Flatland pastoralism, the more pronounced 
the degree of rationalism in their culture. The Arabs, who 
were the most pastoral of all the Semites of which we have 
adequate knowledge, seem to have been the most rationalist 
of the Semite migrants out of the Arabian Flatland into the 
vision of history. Similarly the Hebrews, who were more 
pastoral than the other Canaanites, were considerably more 
rational than these others. In fact, the Canaanites of the 
Levant had a very nonrational culture, so that the emergence 
of the Hebrews as a separate social group among the Ca- 
naanites was, to a considerable extent, marked by the devel- 
opment of a more rational and more historical outlook, as 
well as by monotheism. The generally irrational character of 
Canaanite society probably arose from its extensive cultural 
mixture with local agricultural peoples and with immigrant 
Alpine peoples, such as the Hurrians. 

The rationalism of the Indo-Europeans appears in their 
basic thinking habits. Its most notable feature, of course, is 
the effort to find explanations of events in terms understand- 
able to our conscious mental processes. This leads to per- 
vasive but less fundamental characteristics, such as the 
tendency to polarize continua that, in turn, leads to the use 
of two-valued logic in explanations. This last characteristic 
shows most clearly in the acceptance of the principle of 

286 • The Evolution of Civilizations 

contradiction (the essential feature of any system of two- 
valued logic) in the analysis of observations (in addition 
to the already mentioned inclination to analysis itself). The 
earlier civilizations, such as Mesopotamian and Egyptian, 
were not analytical and had no tendency to seek logical 
explanation. It would be incorrect to say that they were 
illogical, for this might indicate that they violated a logical 
system of which they were aware. Rather we should say that 
they were mythological. This means that they did not seek 
explanation by analysis in order to obtain logical sequence 
back to a "cause"; rather they found explanation in a story, 
as we still do in children's tales (like "How the Elephant 
Got His Trunk"). 

In our own development toward logical explanation, we 
find contributions from both the Hebrews and the Indo- 
Europeans. The Hebrews took the first great step toward 
the creation of our modern intellectual processes by turning 
from a mythological to a logical attitude toward the universe. 
They insisted on a rigid distinction between God and man, 
between past and future, between life and death, between 
male and female (especially in regard to deity), between 
man and nature, between the individual and the group, and 
between the righteous and the unrighteous. These logical 
distinctions were not made by earlier peoples, as they are 
not made, for example, by the Hindus. They were largely 
destroyed among the other Canaanites because of the power- 
ful influences these received from the Mesopotamian, Hur- 
rian, and Neolithic Garden cultures. 

Similar rationalism is found among the Indo-Europeans. 
We might explain this quality as one of the attributes of 
Flatland pastoralism. Or we might attribute it to the 
grammatical structure of Indo-European languages and, in 

Classical Civilization »287 

that way, trace it back to the common linguistic ancestor of 
Indo-European and Semite. For Indo-European grammar, 
with its categories of gender, its sharp distinction of person 
and number, and its great emphasis on chronological tense, 
must impress upon any child who learns it a certain amount 
of logical attitude toward experience. This would be quite 
different from the experience of the Japanese child, whose 
language emphasizes in its grammar relative class levels, or 
of the young Bantu speaker, who has little time emphasis 
(lacking any future tense), but divides everything in the 
universe into a score or so of basic qualitative classes. 
Of course, we might abandon this rather Platonic effort 
to explain the logical quality of Greek thought by adopting, 
instead, the Sophist argument that there is nothing really 
logical about Greek thinking or Indo-European languages 
but that we simply call them logical because it is what we 
are used to in our own culture derived from them. If we do 
this, it will still be permissible to say that these qualities 
came into the Greek mixture from the Indo-European ele- 
ment in that mixture. It is obvious that the Indo-European 
element also contributed to Classical culture a large number 
of material traits. These included horses and war chariots, 
the use of flowing garments fastened by pins (the toga), iron 
weapons (from the Hittites by way of the Dorians), the 
wearing of beards, the megaron-style house, the social in- 
feriority of women, and other features. 

We have already indicated what the Minoan element 
contributed to this mixture. It included such very practical 
things as the Mediterranean diet, as well as less tangible 
traits such as much of the foundations of Greek esthetics: 
the sense of beauty and of proportion, the inclination toward 
naturalism in art, the love of nature, and the strong sense of 

288 The Evolution of Civilizations 

community that was such a significant element in the Greek 
city-state. The development of naturalism out of earlier 
geometric art about the seventh century is usually regarded 
as a manifestation of the "Greek genius," but might better 
be regarded as a reemergence of Minoan tendencies after 
their submergence by Iron Age invaders. 
The contributions of the Phoenicians to the period of 
mixture are well known. Coming late, they included the 
alphabet, many techniques in metalwork and other produc- 
tive processes (including the goatskin bellows in ironwork), 
a considerable amount of mythology (such as Hephaestus, 
the god of craft skills), units of weight and measures (in- 
cluding money), and, many musical instruments and tech- 
niques, generally attributed by the Greeks to Cinyras (the 
Canaanite Kinnor). In addition, of course, the Phoenicians 
contributed the basic conditions that led to a revival of 
civilized living in the West: law and order on the seas, 
extension of distant trade, reappearance of city life, the 
recreation of an urban class, and the revival of writing. On 
these foundations ancient society was able to rear a new 
civilization because it had an instrument of expansion. This 
instrument was slavery. 

2. Gestation 

Slavery arose originally from the Indo-European con- 
quest of the archaic peoples of the Mediterranean basin. 
Some of this may have come with the Bronze Age invasions, 
but the greater part undoubtedly arose as a consequence of 
the Iron Age invasions. These events created a kind of 
domestic slavery used in agricultural activities rather than 

Classical Civilization • 289 

the kind of plantation slavery we generally think of because 
that is the kind we know from American history. This means 
that each family, except for the very greatest, had no more 
than a few or several slaves and that these lived with their 
owners' families under conditions of close personal relation- 
ships. In many cases the owner worked directly in the fields 
with his slaves, and he always supervised them, between 
intervals of military campaigns. Thus the owner had a 
personal knowledge of his lands, his slaves, and of agricul- 
tural techniques. If improvement in the use of these was 
needed, he was in a good position to know it. Moreover, he 
had an incentive to make such improvements, since any 
increased agricultural output would accrue to him. And, 
finally, he was in a position to mobilize capital to make such 
improvements, because he had the legal right and power to 
retain for his own use part of the output of each of his slaves. 
The slaveowner, especially in the earliest period, had very 
local interests, and the society in which he lived consisted 
very largely of small, almost self-sufficient economic units, 
largely agrarian in their activities. The earliest types of 
expansion were also local and agricultural — such things as 
clearing of wastelands for new fields, provision of a more 
adequate water supply, draining of swampy areas, the 
building of defensive stockades on neighboring hilltops, and 
terracing. The best known of such ancient works were the 
draining of Lake Copais in Boeotia and the many cuniculi 
of Etruscan Italy. 

The accumulation of surpluses of the ordinary necessities 
of life in the control of slaveowners also contributed to ex- 
pansion by creating a demand for luxury goods of remote 
origin. This demand, met by the activities of the Phoeni- 
cians, led to the beginnings of commerce and later to the rise 

290- The Evolution of Civilizations 

of towns. At least three times in history a society organized 
in small self-sufficient agricultural units has shifted to an 
urbanized commercial society by the growth of a demand for 
luxury goods of remote origin because of the accumulation 
of surpluses of necessities of local origin within the self- 
sufficient agrarian units. This occurred about 4000 B.C. in 
western Asia; it occurred after 900 B.C. in Classical an- 
tiquity; and it occurred after a.d. 1000 in Western civiliza- 
tion. Without a little thought on the subject we might be 
tempted to believe that a tradeless society consisting of self- 
sufficient agricultural units would begin to develop trade 
by the growth of local trade in necessities, but history and 
logic demonstrate quite clearly that the earliest commerce to 
appear in a tradeless society is in luxury goods of remote 
origin. There would be no possibility of any local trade in 
necessities among units that were self-sufficient in necessi- 
ties. Only later, when remote trade in luxuries has given rise 
to urban concentration of commercial people who lack 
necessities, does such local trade develop. 
The growth of such commerce became a principal mani- 
festation of expansion in Mediterranean civilization, and 
was clearly established before 800 B.C. It was preceded and 
then accompanied by an intensification of agricultural prac- 
tices. Both of these required the accumulation of capital, 
based on slavery, to which we have referred. The agricul- 
tural expansion was originally a shift toward growing em- 
phasis on crops, with decreasing emphasis on pastoral 
activities. The proportions of cattle, sheep, even horses and 
all other livestock except goats were reduced. Grazing areas 
were turned into crops; lands held in common became 
individually owned; there was a growing pressure on the 
land, and landownership became increasingly inequitable. 

Classical Civilization '291 

This economic inequality helped accumulation of capital 
but gave rise to explosive social and political pressures such 
as those described in the earliest periods of Greek or Roman 
history. They were relieved, thanks to men like Solon, by 
diverting both manpower and capital into commerce and 
city building. These provided full-scale expansion. 

3. Expansion 

Full-scale expansion, by diverting political and social 
pressures into peaceful and constructive directions, reduced 
social conflicts and warfare. It was manifested in the usual 
four ways, as growth of population, accelerated production, 
geographic expansion, and increased knowledge. These all 
occurred in the eastern Mediterranean at least a century 
before they appeared in the western Mediterranean, so that 
it is convenient to give slightly different dates for this period 
in the east and the west. We might say that the Age of Ex- 
pansion in the eastern Mediterranean was from about 850 
B.C. to about 450, while in the western basin it was about 
700 to 250 B.C. 

The growth of population and of production in the Class- 
ical Age of Expansion is beyond dispute. Much of it ap- 
peared as the growth of cities in both numbers and size and 
in the growing specialization made possible by increasing 
commerce. As Greek colonies were established in grain- 
growing regions, such as the Black Sea shores or in Sicily, 
these newer areas began to ship back grain and metal ores 
to Greece itself, seeking as payment olive oil, wine, and 
metal products. Of these three Greek exports, two were 
liquids, a fact giving rise to a demand for pottery containers 

292 • The Evolution of Civilizations 

that could hardly be met by Greek craftsmen. Thus vigorous 
crafts activities in ceramics and in metals, particularly arms, 
appeared in the Greek commercial cities. At the same time 
the shift in agricultural activities from food grains to wool, 
wine, and oil increased the tendency toward large estates, 
since these could be produced more effectively on larger 
than on smaller holdings. This trend toward larger land 
units continued into the following two stages, the Ages of 
Conflict and of Universal Empire. 

Geographic expansion of Classical civilization in Stage 3 
widened ancient geographic knowledge from the narrow 
area, surrounded by monsters, that was known by the con- 
temporaries of Homer (about 725 B.C.) to the much wider 
knowledge possessed at the establishment of the Museum at 
Alexandria in the third century. Part of this increase came 
from the intense period of colonization before 500 B.C. 
This was carried on by the Phoenicians as well as by the 
Greeks. The former established colonies in North Africa 
(like Carthage), in Sicily (like Utica), and in Spain (like 
Cadiz). Greek cities, like Miletus, Ephesus, Corinth, and 
Megara, also sent out colonies. The chief colonized areas 
were the northern shores of the Aegean Sea, the Black Sea, 
eastern Sicily, and southern Italy, but there were others out- 
side these limits, such as Naucratus in Egypt and Marseilles 
in Gaul. In fact, the Greeks penetrated almost everywhere 
except the Tyrrhenian Sea, including northwestern Italy and 
Corsica, where they were excluded by the Etruscans, and 
west of Sicily, where they were excluded by the Phoenicians 
and Carthaginians. 

The conquest of Phoenicia by Persia in 538 B.C. made 
these great seafaring people a satellite state of Persia, and 
squeezed the Greeks into the central Mediterranean between 

Classical Civilization • 293 

Persian pressure from the east and Carthaginian pressure 
from the west. Since the Persian fleet was largely Phoeni- 
cian, this pressure on Classical civilization, from both east 
and west, was pressure from Canaanite culture. This pres- 
sure was greatly relieved in 480 B.C. when the western 
Greeks, led by Syracuse, defeated the Carthaginians at 
Himera in Sicily and the eastern Greeks, led by Athens, 
defeated the Persian fleet at Salamis. As a result of these 
battles Classical civilization was free to determine its own 
fate until later it finally destroyed the Persian-Phoenician 
system (333 B.C.) and the Carthaginian-Canaanite system 
(146 B.C.). 

We have indicated that an Age of Expansion frequently 
is a period of science and of democracy. This was certainly 
true of Classical civilization. The rise and fall of Greek and, 
later, of Roman democracy is a familiar story. Science, on 
the other hand, had two peaks, both in the Greek period and 
in no way associated with the shape of the Mediterranean 
basin or the relationship between core and peripheral areas. 
These two peaks are generally known as Ionian Science, 
from about 600 B.C. to about 400 B.C., and Hellenistic 
Science, from about 350 to 150 B.C. A link between the two 
was provided by Aristotle's Lyceum. 

Any Age of Expansion has strong trends toward rational- 
ism because of the need to make decisions between alterna- 
tive actions in a period when status is being disrupted and 
social atomism is prevalent because of expansion. Never- 
theless, science (which is, of course, entirely different from 
rationalism because of its faith in observation) usually 
flourishes in an Age of Expansion and is killed off by irra- 
tionalism in the following Age of Conflict. In Classical an- 
tiquity this pattern was not followed. There, rationalism 

294 • The Evolution of Civilizations 

was very strong in the Age of Expansion and began to 
attack science while this period was still in progress. In the 
following period, science was destroyed, not by irrational- 
ism, but by rationalism. The reason for this aberration in the 
pattern lies in the fact that in Classical antiquity rationalism 
became allied with oligarchy and shared in its victory over 
both science and democracy. The importance of this on 
subsequent intellectual history, especially our own, can 
hardly be overemphasized. It deserves a more detailed ex- 

We have already said that reality is not completely ra- 
tional because it consists of continua. Such continua are non- 
rational and nonlogical. They can be handled by various 
techniques all of which ultimately fall back on observation 
through the senses. Such continua can be dealt with simply 
by action; so that when a man runs or plays tennis we can 
say that he is dealing successfully with the continua of space 
and time. Such activity is based on the use of the senses 
(observation) plus unconscious (neurological) mental proc- 
esses. These unconscious mental processes are, of course, 
nonrational (although not always "irrational") and non- 
logical. Or, in the second case, we can deal with such con- 
tinua rationally and logically by dividing them, as we did 
with the rainbow, by arbitrary and imaginary divisions into 
gamuts to which we attach rational labels. We then deal 
with these labels (or categories) by rational processes, but 
the verity of the conclusions reached by these processes 
must be checked through sensual observation. A third 
method of dealing with reality is by pure rationalism, but 
before we consider this we must say a few words about the 
Greek effort to use the second method to develop a scientific 
approach to reality. 

Classical Civilization • 295 

It is generally recognized that science, as we understand 
it, was born, but never fully developed, among the Greeks. 
It began to develop among the Ionians about 600 B.C. with 
the work of men like Thales of Miletus (ca. 624-547). 
About a century later the optimistic beliefs of the Ionian 
scientists began to be challenged by a number of thinkers 
who argued that reality was much more complex than was 
believed and that its nature varied with the point of view of 
the observer so that, for example, what seems warm to one 
observer seems cool to a different observer (or even to the 
same observer at a different time) so that we cannot say 
what is really warm or cool. The chief figure in this develop- 
ment of profound doubt was Heraclitus of Ephesus. 
Heraclitus was obsessed with the dynamic qualities of 
observed reality, or, as we should put it, with the inability 
of man to deal with continua by any processes based on 
sensual observation. "All is flux," he said. Or again, "You 
cannot step into the same river twice." By this last statement 
he meant that the river is always changing. If we step into 
a river even a second after we stepped into it the first time, 
it is a different river. The first time we step into it, it is the 
river-we-have-not-yet-stepped-into, while the second time we 
step into it, it is the river-we-have-already-stepped-into. 
These are clearly different rivers, but they are different for 
other reasons as well. The second time, it is a different river 
because some of its water has flowed to the sea and been 
replaced by different water, the fish and plants in it have 
moved, and its bed and banks have worn away (however 
slightly). Obviously, it is not the same river. Although our 
senses can discern the changes only at the end of a long 
lime, it has changed somewhat in any time however brief. 
Similarly, it changes in space. We walk along its bank and 

296 The Evolution of Civilizations 

say, "Here is the river." But soon it is very narrow, and we 
say, "Here is the brook." Yet nowhere can we find a spot or 
a line which separates the river from the brook or the brook 
from the rill. We say that John's body is renewed every seven 
years, its material being completely eliminated and replaced 
by new material. This process must go on constantly so that 
at the end of any time, however small, John is a different 
person. We thus have no right to expect debts to be paid, 
because we can never find the exact person to whom we 
made the loan, and anyone has the right to refuse to repay 
a loan on the ground that it was made to someone else. If 
we seek repayment after a long interval, say ten years, why 
should he not say: "You have the wrong person. I do not 
have in my body a single molecule of the person to whom 
you made the loan ten years ago"? Of course we might 
argue, in such a case, that the molecules might have changed 
but their configuration has remained the same, and the loan 
was made to the configuration, not to the sum total of mole- 
cules. The point of such a distinction between molecules and 
their configuration, somewhat like Aristotle's distinction 
between matter and its form, is that matter can be observed 
by the senses while the form has to be inferred by some 
mental process. According to these Greek nonscientific 
thinkers of the fifth century B.C., we can say nothing true or 
know nothing certain about the physical world of appear- 
ances. In this world "all is flux." But behind this material 
world there must be some nonmaterial unchanging reality 
that can be found by rational thought. According to Her- 
aclitus this reality behind appearances must be logos, a 
pattern of logical rationality. 
On the basis of arguments such as these there arose a 

Classical Civilization • 297 

school of rationalists following the teachings of Pythagoras 
(ca. 580-505 B.C.). To these Pythagorean rationalists the 
diversity and dynamics of the material world made it un- 
knowable and outside the realm of possible discussion. But 
behind this "appearance of things," which was really illusion, 
was reality. Such reality was rational and logical. Accord- 
ingly, reality could be found by reason and logic alone, 
without any appeal to the senses or to observation. In fact, 
such an appeal to observation would merely distract a per- 
son from the unchanging, knowable, unity of rational reality 
to the constantly changing, unknowable, illusion of appear- 
ances. This dichotomy between appearance and reality be- 
came basic in the outlook of the Pythagorean rationalists 
such as Pythagoras himself, Socrates, Plato, or the early 
Aristotle. They insisted that knowledge could be obtained 
not by approaching the material world through the senses 
but by turning away from the material world (which was 
unknowable illusion) to reality (which was rational and 
knowable). Reality was to be found by the use of reason 
and logic alone, because it was rational and logical. This 
involved the unstated assumption that man's rational and 
logical mental activities run parallel to reality and reflect it 
without any physical link between them. According to the 
Pythagorean rationalists the rational and logical reality be- 
hind the world of appearances and found by the use of 
reason and logic without observation was the eternal, ra- 
tional, and unified field of mathematics. Our knowledge of 
these things was not based on observation but on "reminis- 
cence." Learning does not consist of putting anything into 
the mind but in recalling to the mind from its hiding place 
in the memory what the mind really knew all the while from 

298 • The Evolution of Civilizations 

some earlier existence or merely from its own structure. 
This process of remembering mathematics is demonstrated 
in Plato's Meno. 

The best known case of an individual starting out as a 
follower of the Ionian sciences and then becoming a Py- 
thagorean rationalist is to be found in the autobiographical 
remarks which Plato put into Socrates' mouth in the Phaedo. 
In earlier years, he said, he had been a follower of the 
natural philosophers (that is, the scientists) and even for a 
while had accepted the teachings of Anaxagoras, but he 
soon discovered that the senses were not dependable and 
that the views of scientists were never in agreement and 
were always changing. Accordingly he had abandoned 
dependence on the body and discovered that truth could be 
found by reason alone. The real philosopher, he felt, should 
be glad to die, because this would free him from the con- 
fusion of the body and the senses. The knowledge of the 
essence of things must be sought "with the mind alone, not 
introducing or intruding into the act of thought the sight 
or any other sense along with reason ... ; he who has got rid, 
as far as he can, of eyes and ears and, so to speak, of the 
whole body, these being in his opinion distracting elements 
which, when they infect the mind hinder it from acquiring 
truth and knowledge. . . ." "I decided," he said, "to take 
refuge from the confusion of the senses in argument and by 
means of argument alone to determine the truth of reality." 
The truth thus revealed is recollection, recalled from a 
previous existence, and its truth is not to be tested, as a 
scientist would do, by observation but simply by the mathe- 
matical rule that all inferences deduced from it are mutually 
We have already mentioned that these Pythagorean ideas 

Classical Civilization -299 

held and propagated by Socrates, Plato, Xenophon, and 
others were not tenable because long before, while Pythag- 
oras was yet alive, one of his disciples had used the master's 
own Pythagorean theorem to prove that space was irrational 
(because it was a continuum). This means that it was pos- 
sible to prove the irrationality of reality by purely rational 
(mathematical) arguments and that, accordingly, the fun- 
damental assumption of this school about the rationality 
and logic of reality was false. Such a discovery should have 
led any honest seekers after truth to abandon this funda- 
mental assumption about reality and to fall back on some 
other assumption (such as the scientists' assumption that 
the senses do give us information about reality). 
The continued adherence by the rationalist school to 
beliefs they knew were false can only be explained on the 
ground that they had an interest in these beliefs beyond their 
devotion to truth. Naturally this interest was not stated by 
these people publicly. At least, no such statement appears 
in the ancient evidence; so once again we must rely on in- 
ference: the key to the thinking of the Pythagorean rational- 
ists lies in their fear of change and hatred of change. Beyond 
the ordinary change of the physical world they saw the social 
change that, for centuries, had been spreading political 
power and economic benefits wider and wider. There can be 
no doubt that the Pythagorean rationalists resented these 
political and social changes and wished to deny the possi- 
bility and reality of change. Pythagoras himself was the 
founder of an international oligarchic conspiracy, the Py- 
thagorean Brotherhood, which operated out of Croton, in 
southern Italy, until it was forced to flee from that city by a 
democratic uprising about 510 B.C. Thereafter this organiza- 
tion centered in Thebes in Boeotia. In international affairs 

300 The Evolution of Civilizations 

it operated in support of the oligarchic states and in opposi- 
tion to the democratic states, like Athens. In intellectual 
matters it attacked Ionian Science, the sophists, the philo- 
sophic nominalists, and the upholders of democracy and of 
human equality. The latter groups had become allied and, 
in some cases, identified for logical and historical reasons. 
Until the end of the seventh century the Greeks lived in a 
fairly static society in which each individual's position was 
based on status rather than on choice or conscious decision 
and in which it was rare to meet any person with different 
customs or ideas than oneself. Accordingly, it was but na- 
tural for the Greeks to assume that the ideas and customs 
that they practiced themselves represented intrinsic and 
innate human nature and absolute truth in a system of 
absolute and universal values. The growth of commerce 
and of colonial expansion gave a rude shock to these ideas 
by showing the Greeks people with ideas and customs 
different from their own and often antithetical to theirs. The 
culmination of this educational process is to be seen in 
Herodotus, who is almost gullible in his readiness to believe 
that non-Greeks can practice almost any social customs. 
Experiences such as these could hardly fail to make a 
thoughtful people begin to examine the basis of their own 
customs. Can customs be based on essential human nature 
when different peoples act so differently? Or can there be 
any absolute value systems or social standards when differ- 
ent peoples have such diverse convictions? From these 
discussions there emerged, by the fifth century, two quite 
opposed points of view. On the one hand, the conservatives 
insisted that there was an absolute system of values and of 
social behavior and that in this system the customary Greek 
behavior was the natural inborn behavior of those beings 

Classical Civilization '301 

who were fully human; any persons who acted or thought 
otherwise were at a lower level of this same absolute stan- 
dard because their natures were not fully human. These con- 
servatives saw the universe of living beings as a kind of 
hierarchy in which animals acted like animals, barbarians 
acted like barbarians, Greeks acted like men, and demigods 
acted like demigods, each according to its "real" nature. 
From this point of view developed two powerful theories 
that are still with us today: (!) that all differences between 
kinds of objects are real, eternal, and objective distinctions, 
and (2) that all differences between men are equally real, 
unchangeable, and objective, the result of biological (that is 
hereditary) differences. The first of these theories led, most 
obviously, to the corollary that species distinctions are real 
or, as the philosophers put it, universals are real. This is 
known as philosophic realism. The second, closely related 
theory, led to the belief that human personality is identical 
with human nature, each being based on the individual's 
biologic heredity and that, accordingly, social distinctions 
(such as those between noble and worker or between free 
man and slave) are based on real differences rooted in 

The point of view opposed to this absolute thinking was 
more relativist. It regarded differences in social customs as 
merely conventional differences indicating no real difference 
between barbarians and Greeks, between nobles and work- 
ers, or between free men and slaves. The external differences 
between these were merely accidental occurrences, resulting 
from different environment or upbringing, and signifying no 
really fundamental differences between the basic natures of 
the persons concerned. The customs of tribes or the positions 
of individuals were mere conventions, arising from history, 

302 The Evolution of Civilizations 

and were thus capable of change in the future as they had 
changed in the past. In this point of view there was a dis- 
tinction between nature and personality, the former being 
presumably the same for all men, while the latter was 
different merely because each person's history was different. 
Distinctions were not based on nature but on convention; 
moreover, if Heraclitus was correct about the dynamic na- 
ture of all the universe, then no distinctions between kinds of 
things were real, but were all equally conventional, drawn 
by a local consensus and indicated by verbal differences. 
This point of view led to philosophic nominalism and social, 
if not ethical, relativism. The chief distinction between noble 
and worker or between freeman and slave is not any absolute 
or real distinction but only a verbal distinction based, at 
most, on superficial and conventional distinctions such as 
exist between all individuals. 

For reasons that should be evident, the absolute point of 
view based on philosophic realism had considerable appeal 
to the conservatives and the defenders of oligarchy. It denied 
the possibility of real change and justified the existing social 
and economic inequalities as being based on real, eternal 
distinctions. Furthermore, by insisting on the reality of 
group differences it reduced the appeal of individualism and 
justified the domination of the group over the individual. 
Parallel reasons made the nominalist and relativist point 
of view appealing to the egalitarian, individualistic progres- 
sives. Nominalism, which recognized the existence of in- 
dividuals, denied the real existence of groups and thus 
denied that economic and social inequalities were anything 
more than accidental and changeable features. This point 
of view justified individualism as the only reality, insisting 
that groups or universals were merely conventional collec- 

Classical Civilization • 303 

tions of individuals to which a common name was given. 
Such a name was arbitrary and temporary, capable of 
change and even of complete reversal so that, for example, 
slavery could be called freedom and tyranny could be called 
justice, if men merely agreed on the convention to do so. 
Thus the sophist Hippias, according to Plato, questioned 
the reality of the group (the state) by saying, "I believe all 
of you are kinsmen, friends, and fellow citizens, not by law 
but by nature; for by nature like is akin to like but law is the 
tyrant of mankind and often makes us do many things which 
are against nature." And again the sophist Lycophron ques- 
tioned class distinctions with the statement, "The superiority 
of noble birth is imaginary, and its prerogatives are based 
merely upon a word." The real existence of a slavish nature 
in conventional slaves was challenged by thinkers like Al- 
cidamas who said, "God made all men free; no man is a 
slave by nature," and Euripides who wrote, "The name alone 
brings shame upon a slave, who can be excellent in every 
way and truly equal to the freeborn man." Another sophist, 
Antiphon, questioned the real distinction between Greek 
and non-Greek, saying, "As to our natural gifts, we are all 
equal, whether we be Greeks or barbarians." According 
to Plato, Thrasymachus, a sophist, upheld the conventional, 
arbitrary, and nominalist character of justice by saying that 
this was merely a word which we apply to whatever the 
strong impose on the weak. 

The nominalist outlook of the sophists was congenial and 
acceptable to the Ionian scientists, to the democrats, and to 
most progressive and reforming persons. In many instances, 
such as Anaxagoras, these "popular" roles were combined 
in one person. In any case, they were closely allied. This 
alliance, for a generation (461-429 B.c), was under the 

304 • The Evolution of Civilizations 

leadership and patronage of Pericles, in whose "kitchen 
cabinet" Anaxagoras was a prominent member. 

4. Age of Conflict 

The period of expansion continued until the middle of the 
third century B.C. in the western half of Classical antiquity, 
but ended two centuries earlier in the eastern half. We can 
fix these dates with a good deal of confidence, but the 
mechanism that caused the change is considerably clearer 
in one case than it is in the other. The dubious instance is the 
earlier one, in the mid-fifth century in the Greek- speaking 

In this earlier case we can see quite clearly that there was 
a change from a period of expansion to a period of conflict. 
Before 450 B.C. the four usual kinds of expansion (in pro- 
duction, population, geographic extent, and knowledge) are 
evident, but after that date they are much less so. On the 
other hand, three of the four characteristics of an Age of 
Conflict (decreasing rate of economic expansion, increasing 
class conflicts, imperialist wars, irrationality) seem to be 
increasingly evident after 450 B.C. If we move further away 
from this demarcation date, to compare, for example, 500 
B.C. with 400 B.C. or 550 B.C. with 350 B.C., it becomes even 
clearer that the culture has passed from expansion to con- 

To be sure there are difficulties, but in some cases, at 
least, these can be explained away. We must remember that 
the point at which a civilization (or an area in a civilization) 
turns from Stage 3 to Stage 4 is the point at which the rate 
of expansion ceases to rise and begins to decline; it is not 

Classical Civilization '305 

the much later point at which expansion itself ceases and is 
replaced by contraction. There is thus a considerable length 
of time between these two points during which expansion 
continues, but with a decreasing rate. In the case of a core 
area, such as Greece, the difficulty in determining the date 
is increased by the fact that the rate of expansion itself is 
still continuing to rise in more peripheral areas (such as the 
western Mediterranean), and the helpful influence of pros- 
perity there can serve to conceal the less optimistic picture 
in the older area. 

Other sources of ambiguity in demarking the two stages 
from each other arise from closely related conditions. The 
ending of geographic expansion and of the growth of 
knowledge is difficult to establish in the core of any civiliza- 
zation as long as that civilization is continuing to expand 
in its peripheral areas. In fact, the expression "geographic 
expansion" can apply only to the society as a whole and 
could never be established for some limited portion of it. 
On the other hand, it does seem likely, although the evidence 
is not available, that the growth of knowledge, for the ordi- 
nary Greek, ceased to increase in the fourth century. The 
wars, insecurity, and general confusion that became en- 
demic in Greek life after 430 B.C. must have made it in- 
creasingly difficult for the ordinary Greek (that is, the one 
who lacked the leisure provided by slaveownership) to 
obtain information. The established methods by which infor- 
mation was diffused in Greek society, through conversation 
rather than by reading and thus through such periodic 
gatherings as the Olympic Games, the Panathenaic festival, 
and visits to the local agora, as well as the more irregular 
intercourse provided by visits from foreign celebrities or 
journeys to places like the Delphic oracle — all these weak- 

306' The Evolution of Civilizations 

ened as methods of communication for the ordinary non- 
slaveowning Greek after 430 B.C. The possibility of 
becoming literate or of obtaining information from written 
works may also have decreased about this time, or a little 
later, for the nonslaveowner. On the other hand, these 
written sources of information may well have increased in 
availability for leisured slaveowners for a long time after 
the fifth century B.C. 

If the cessation of the four aspects of an Age of Expansion 
is difficult to establish for Greece in the fifth century, the 
advent of at least three of the four aspects of an Age of 
Conflict is easy to demonstrate. There clearly was a decreas- 
ing rate of economic expansion, at least after 400 B.C., for 
the economic troubles of Greece in the fourth century and 
later are notorious. The growth of class conflicts seems 
equally evident. Of course, it might be argued that such class 
struggles were always present in Greece; and, within limits, 
that is true. Social tensions had reached a very high peak in 
the period of transition from gestation to full expansion 
but had then subsided only to rise again at the transition 
from expansion to conflict. In Athenian history where our 
historical evidence is more adequate than elsewhere, there 
can be no doubt that social tensions reached a high point 
in the period between Draco and Solon (say 600 B.C.) and 
then subsided to a low point about 500 B.C. (just before the 
Persian Wars) only to rise again about 400 B.C. Moreover, 
the kind of class conflict was different in the earlier period 
than it was in the later one. In the former the struggle was 
between the forces of dynamicism of the Age of Expansion 
and the efforts of the older dominant groups to prevent 
change and to maintain the static social conditions of the 
period of gestation. Draco and his supporters wished to 

Classical Civilization -307 

maintain the noble-dominated, self-sufficient, largely pas- 
toral economic units of the earlier period, and sought to 
resist the growth of such innovations as the expanding 
money economy, the growth of commerce, the development 
of city life, the rise of a middle class founded on com- 
merce, the shift to a more democratic military force based 
on infantry from the older system based on the use of chari- 
ots by a hereditary nobility, and the resulting modifications 
of law and justice inevitable with increased social change. 
This kind of conflict was based on tensions of development 
in which older ways of providing for human needs resisted 
the innovation of new methods for providing for these needs. 
Such tension is endemic in any dynamic society, and, from 
it, social conflicts can arise at any time. 
The increased social conflicts that arose after 450 B.C. 
were quite different, being caused by tensions of evolution 
rather than by tensions of development. They did not arise 
from resistance to change, and even less from unsuccessful 
resistance to change, but from growing desperation be- 
cause expansion was slowing up. 

Of even greater significance, perhaps, is the fact that in 
this newer evolutionary crisis the victory was falling more 
and more to the groups who hated change. This triumph of 
the reactionaries had occurred occasionally in the earlier 
period of acute developmental tensions, most notably in 
Sparta. There the legislation associated with the name of 
Lycurgus had stopped the development from an agrarian to 
a commercial economy and had retained local control of 
political and social life in the hands of the noble landlord 
class at the price of a renunciation of all commercial expan- 
sion. But this local reaction had been overcome in the Greek 
world as a whole by increased expansion elsewhere, as in 

308- [ The Evolution of Civilizations 

Corinth or Athens. This is, of course, a clear case of geo- 
graphic circumvention to a local reactionary triumph. But 
in the period after 400 B.C. in the Greek world there was a 
general triumph of the forces of reaction. This can be seen 
in the victories of Sparta, Thebes, Macedonia, and Rome, 
all of whom supported the oligarchic groups over the demo- 
cratic groups in each state they attacked. 
The growth of class conflict in the period after 430 B.C. 
can be seen in the writings of the enemies of democracy such 
as Aristophanes, Xenophon, or Plato, but is most clearly 
shown in Thucydides. The latter describes the way in which 
each state became divided into two classes, the democratic 
group favorable to Athens and the oligarchic group favor- 
able to Sparta. The bloody reprisals these two groups in- 
flicted on each other provide some of the most violent pages 
in Greek history. In Corcyra, where this schism appeared 
in one of its earliest and most unhappy examples, the popu- 
lar party obtained support from the rural slaves by offering 
them emancipation, while the oligarchic group hired mercen- 
ary fighters from neighboring areas, and each group set out, 
generally successfully, to massacre the other. 
Closely related to these growing class conflicts was the 
increasing evidence of imperialist wars. In the earlier periods 
there had been political conflicts, but the economic expan- 
sion of each state, either intensively (as a shift from agricul- 
ture to commerce and handicrafts) or extensively (as 
colonial expansion), had usually taken place without head- 
on collisions; but by 450 B.C. expansion was increasingly 
extensive rather than intensive and was more and more 
likely to seek political support for its extension because more 
than one group (each backed by its own state) was trying 
to expand into the same area, or into an area already oc- 

Classical Civilization • 309 

cupied by a third group. These two modifications in the 
nature of expansion are characteristic of the shift from a 
period of expansion to a period of conflict. When an organi- 
zation becomes institutionalized, it resists structural changes 
and thus decreases the amount of intensive expansion 
(which can be achieved only by structural changes) but still 
seeks to expand extensively by spreading its institutionalized 
structure over wider areas of exploitation. When numerous 
groups seek to do this, the limited number of such wider 
areas makes conflicts arise. Each group seeks to support its 
extensive expansion by political force, and the result is 
imperialist war. Indeed, one of the most notable character- 
istics of any Age of Conflict is the effort to achieve economic 
expansion by political rather than by economic means. 
Here again Thucydides provides our most reliable evi- 
dence. The growing rivalry of diverse economic imperialisms 
is well shown in his writings, and culminated in the clash 
between Corinth and Athens in the Adriatic. Athens had 
come to dominate the commerce of the Aegean in the first 
half of the fifth century as Corinth dominated that of the 
Adriatic. When Athens tried to push into the Adriatic, 
allying with Corcyra to do so, Corinth called upon its ally, 
Sparta, and the fierce struggle began. It is clear that this 
Athenian effort to push a fairly primitive commercial econ- 
omy into an area already occupied by a similar economy was 
unnecessary and was a result of the institutionalization of 
that system, but we do not know enough about the Greek 
economy of the day to say exactly how the system was 
institutionalized and how it could have been reformed. 
We cannot ask of any economic system that it expand 
beyond the limits of its own technical knowledge or of its 
own social traits, but we have the right to expect that it 

310- The Evolution of Civilizations 

utilize these before it seeks to expand by taking wealth 
from its neighbors. From this point of view it seems quite 
evident that Greek agriculture was far from exploiting its 
available resources when the imperialist wars began in the 
fifth century. At that time grain (usually barley) was 
grown in a two-field system in which the field was left fallow 
alternate years; this was equivalent to tilling only half the 
land each year. The fallow was left to recover the nutritive 
elements in the soil (nitrogen) and to a lesser extent the 
moisture. The latter could undoubtedly have been increased 
to some extent by irrigation, but a lack of private enterprise 
hampered this. As for the nutritive elements, these could 
have been increased sufficiently to reduce the fallowing to 
one year in three or even to eliminate it completely. The 
Greeks were fully aware of the nitrogen-providing qualities 
of leguminous crops: clover is mentioned in the Odyssey; 
and alfalfa came from Persia about 480 B.C.; other legumes 
were known, and their function as green manures was fully 
known to Xenophon and Theophrastus, yet were rarely 
used. The use of lime, marls, and various volcanic soils 
as inorganic fertilizers was also known, above all to Theo- 
phrastus. Yet these improvements were generally neglected. 
The causes of this neglect are to be attributed to a general 
lack of enterprise associated with a long-established slave 
system and the growing idea that agricultural labor was a 
menial activity beneath the dignity of free men. A wider use 
of legumes and of irrigation could have been made the basis 
for a more intensive use of livestock and this, in turn, could 
have led to a considerable increase in the use of meat and 
cheese in the Greek diet. But, as long as so much of agri- 
cultural labor was slaves, and these could be fed on barley 
and fish, there was little incentive to seek improvements in 

Classical Civilization • 3 1 1 

diet. To some extent such improvements in living were 
hampered by poor transportation, especially by inadequate 
harnessing that made it hardly worthwhile to use draft 
animals, so that heavy work had to be done by slaves. Here 
again the existence of slavery undoubtedly discouraged 
innovation: the slaves had to be fed 365 days in the year 
and had to be kept busy, so there was no real profit in any 
inventions that would reduce the work of slaves, since their 
field work in agriculture kept them busy only a small part of 
the year. Fields were plowed four or five times in a year, 
and each time were plowed over and over again in many 
directions "until it was no longer possible to see in which 
direction the plow went last." The clods were broken up with 
mattocks. Although this used enormous labor, it was recog- 
nized that any increase in efficiency would merely have 
served to increase the periods in which the slaves were idle. 
It was difficult to turn slaves to other activities such as vine 
dressing or olive trimming because these required too much 
skill for ordinary slaves. In a similar way, deep plowing 
and drill planting of seed were known to produce superior 
crops but were not used for lack of enterprise. 
On none of these matters can we be very certain of our 
interpretations, because the facts are rather scanty, but it 
does seem that the Greek economic system, especially in 
agriculture, ceased to improve after 400 B.C. even though 
the knowledge that could have made improvements possible 
was available. Undoubtedly this had a considerable influ- 
ence on the growth of imperialist wars, and seems to indicate 
that slavery had become an institution. 

The fourth aspect of any Age of Conflict, increase in 
irrationality, is lacking in the Greek world after 450 B.C. 
and was generally rare in Classical antiquity, even when this 

312- The Evolution of Civilizations 

society was clearly deep in its Age of Conflict. One reason 
probably lies in the general tendency toward rationality 
that existed among the Greeks and that we have tried to at- 
tribute to their Indo-European heritage. Of even greater 
significance was the alliance, already mentioned, between 
rationalism and the triumphant oligarchy. 
The critics and enemies of democracy and of the whole 
Athenian way of life with its emphasis on change, com- 
merce, and social equality formed a motley bloc made up 
of the philosophic realists, the conservatives and rationalists, 
especially the Pythagoreans, the defenders of nobility, of 
oligarchy, and of the state's authority, the admirers of 
Sparta, and the enemies of science. These groups were 
broken and disorganized for almost a century after the 
revolt at Croton (510 B.C.), and were kept off balance by 
the long series of political and economic successes of the 
Athenian democracy, but when these successes were fol- 
lowed by a longer series of disasters after 431 B.C., the 
oligarchic bloc began to organize. It is extremely likely that 
the nucleus of this revived oligarchic movement came from 
the Pythagorean refugees in Thebes. In any case, it brought 
together the diverse groups we have mentioned. The greatest 
figure in this group was Plato, who, like Anaxagoras a 
century earlier in the opposing bloc, combined many diverse 
trends. The writings of Plato remain as the most successful 
statement of the oligarchic rationalist position, although 
it is frequently stated even more explicitly elsewhere, as in 
some of the early works of Aristotle (when he was still a 
Platonic rationalist), especially the first book of the Politics. 
The rivalry between these two blocs appeared repeatedly 
in the public controversies of Athens during the century 
450-350 B.C. and even later. The condemnation of Anaxag- 

Classical Civilization *3 1 3 

oras about 450 B.C. was as much an event in this struggle 
as was the trial and conviction of Pericles in 430 B.C. So 
also was the execution of Socrates (399 B.C.) and Plato's 
reaction to this deed by founding the Academy on endow- 
ments that continued for 914 years (385 b.c.-a.d. 529). 
There were three basic ideas of this oligarchic group: (1) 
that change was evil, superficial, illusory, and fundamentally 
impossible; (2) that all material things were misleading, 
illusory, distracting, and not worth seeking; and (3) that all 
rationally demonstrable distinctions, including those in 
social position (especially slavery), were based on real un- 
changing differences and not upon accidental or conven- 
tional distinctions. These three ideas together would serve 
to stop all efforts at social change, economic reform, or 
political equality. 

These ideas, which we might sum up under some such 
comprehensive term as Pythagorean rationalism, were, of 
course, not irrational, yet they led, ultimately, to mysticism 
and served the same purpose of providing an ideology for 
the vested-interest groups that irrational thinking usually 
does in the Age of Conflict of any civilization. In the Age 
of Conflict of Classical antiquity these ideas generally tri- 
umphed, although they were challenged, generally with little 
effect, by the later Aristotle (after 343 B.C.), by Epicurus 
and Lucretius, and by numerous minor thinkers in the late 
Hellenistic and Roman periods. When, in the latter period, 
some of the sophist ideas, such as the conventional nature of 
slavery, became widely accepted, they were combined, as in 
Stoicism, with resignation and acceptance of the external 
appearances of things to a degree that entirely canceled the 
dynamic and progressive influence they had possessed when 
advocated by the Sophists. 

314- The Evolution of Civilizations 

It might be pointed out at this time that the triumph of 
the vested-interest groups (the oligarchy) in the struggles 
of the Age of Conflict of Classical civilization resulted in 
the social, political, and economic triumph of the oligarchy 
over the progressive and revolutionary forces. This led to 
the survival of the works of the intellectual supporters of 
oligarchy, such as Plato, Xenophon, and Cicero, and to the 
loss of most of the works of the opposite side, such as the 
writings of the Sophists and Ionian scientists; the rich were 
willing to pay for making copies of works favoring their 
position and would not pay for copying of opposition works. 
Thus we have today the writings of Pindar and Xenophon, 
but have lost those of Anaxagoras and Epicurus. 
Moreover, it should be pointed out that the oligarchic 
victory over the forces of progress and equality did not 
ensure survival to the victors in the long run, or the ending 
of the opposition's ideology. Quite the contrary. The mili- 
tary tyranny that arose as a consequence of the oligarchy's 
efforts to maintain slavery and social inequality by force 
eventually took over the control of Classical society in its 
own name and liquidated the oligarchy and the Classical 
culture it had maintained. In a similar way the ideological 
writings of the supporters of oligarchy survived, but many of 
the ideas of their nominalist opponents became generally 
accepted. Thus individualism, the natural equality of all 
men, the conventional and unnatural character of slavery, 
and the belief that social distinctions rested on force rather 
than on real differences became generally accepted in the 
Stage of Universal Empire, but without in any way destroy- 
ing the continued existence as institutions of slavery, social 
inequality, law, or public authority. Of course, in the very 
long run, with the disappearance of these institutions it 

Classical Civilization '315 

might be argued that the ideas that challenged them won 
out, but this occurred only with the death of Classical 
society as a whole. 

It would seem then that the period after 450 B.C. (in the 
eastern Mediterranean at least) had the chief, if not all, 
features of an Age of Conflict. Similarly, the following 
period in the eastern Mediterranean had many of the fea- 
tures of an Age of Universal Empire. These latter features 
continued from the establishment of Macedonian supremacy 
in the seventh decade of the fourth century until the disrup- 
tion of Alexander's empire and the growing power of Rome 
threw the eastern Mediterranean back into the belated Age 
of Conflict still continuing in the western Mediterranean 
(until 146 B.C.). 

The imperialist wars of the eastern Mediterranean's local 
Age of Conflict continued almost without interruption from 
the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War in 431 B.C. to the 
conquests of Alexander the Great a century later. Chief 
events in this period were the Spartan triumph over Athens 
in 404 B.C., the Theban victory over Sparta in 371 B.C., and 
the Macedonian conquest of all Greece at Chaeronea in 
338 B.C. The conquests of Alexander the Great during the 
following fifteen years established a "core" or preliminary 
universal empire and some of the features of this fifth stage 
in the evolution of civilization continued, in spite of the 
subsequent breakup of that empire among the Diadochi. The 
chief of these features was the creation of a far-flung com- 
mercial unity that encouraged distant trade and geographic 
division of labor. In a full universal empire, such as existed 
in the Roman Empire under the Antonines, this would have 
been carried on to include a single monetary system, a uni- 
fied legal system, and other aspects of unified rule and would 

316 The Evolution of Civilizations 

have given rise to a period of peace and prosperity to which 
we apply the term "golden age." In Alexander's system this 
golden age was never reached because the core empire was 
disrupted and its temporary beneficial effects were obliter- 
ated by the intrusion into the eastern Mediterranean of the 
Age of Conflict still going on in the western Mediterranean. 
The Age of Expansion in the western Mediterranean 
lasted from the seventh century to the middle of the third 
century, and thus continued for two hundred years after 
expansion had begun to decline in the east. It was, on the 
whole, somewhat different from the earlier expansion in the 
east, being more agricultural than commercial and more 
dependent on slavery. Moreover, nonindigenous peoples like 
the Etruscans and the Carthaginians made very considerable 
contributions to it. From the Etruscans, for example, came 
valuable contributions in regard to irrigation and drainage, 
while the Carthaginians developed the use of plantation 
slavery, especially in Sicily. Plantation slavery, which refers 
to the use of gangs of slaves on large estates, was always 
rare in Greece but became in the west the admired form of 
agrarian organization. It also became the mechanism by 
which the slave system was changed from an instrument of 
expansion to an institution of conflict. 

In the earlier period, when agrarian units were still small 
they were worked by citizen- soldiers, frequently helped by 
slaves. Hesiod in Greece (about 700 B.C.) and Cincinnatus 
in Italy would be examples of such farmers. The story of 
how Cincinnatus was summoned from his plow to be dic- 
tator of Rome when it was attacked by the Aequi in 458 
B.C. and how he returned to his work after a victorious 
sixteen-day campaign is significant on two counts. It shows 
the amateur and temporary status of Roman soldiers at this 

Classical Civilization • 317 

early period, and it shows that an important citizen worked 
in the fields himself. 

By 200 B.C. the citizen- soldier and the family-size farm 
were both beginning to vanish from Italy. The ravages of 
Hannibal in his invasion of Italy during the Second Punic 
War (218-201 B.C.) had destroyed buildings, equipment, 
and livestock beyond the ability of the ordinary peasant to 
replace them. Moreover, these peasants had been away 
from their farms for years and had difficulty returning to the 
onerous routine of peasant life. The overseas conquests 
resulting from the war required a permanent standing army. 
This was recruited from the uprooted peasants of Italy. The 
farms of these displaced peasants were purchased by war 
profiteers or larger landlords who had made money from 
war contracts or war booty and were in a position to buy 
the ravaged Italian farms, combine them into large estates, 
and equip them with buildings and livestock from their 
wartime profits. The captives taken in the war provided 
slaves with which these new estates could be worked. 
This process was encouraged by a number of other fac- 
tors. In Sicily, which had been annexed from Carthage in 
240, and in Africa, which was acquired forty years later, 
the Romans found a functioning agrarian system based on 
large estates. These were copied in Italy and, later, in Spain 
in accordance with the methods of the Carthaginian agri- 
cultural writer Mago, whose works were translated into 
Latin in the second century B.C. The Roman government 
was unable to pay off the debts incurred during the Second 
Punic War except by alienating public lands to the specu- 
lators and profiteers who were the chief creditors. Other 
public lands were transformed into latifundia by tenancy or 
by simple usurpation. Once Sicily and Africa were acquired, 

318 The Evolution of Civilizations 

Italy found it difficult to compete with these new territories 
in raising grain. Accordingly, the farm lands of Italy were 
shifted from grain to the production of olive oil, wool, and 
wine. Grain could be raised on both large and small farms 
and by persons who had large or small amounts of capital. 
Olives and wool could be raised only on large holdings and 
only by persons with considerable capital. Thus the shift 
from family farms to great estates was encouraged in Italy 
by the shift from grain to olives and wool. 
One last but important factor in this change to large 
estates was the fact that landownership carried an appear- 
ance of aristocracy and social prestige, since the nobility 
were by law excluded from commerce, and restricted their 
economic activities to agriculture. As a result, every parvenu 
who made money in commerce, industry, speculation, or war 
contracts sought to win public sanction of his rise in the 
social scale by acquiring a large estate — the larger, the 
better. In this way many persons with no direct knowledge or 
interest in farming became owners of latifundia worked by 
slaves in charge of a steward. In consequence there grew 
up a pattern of ostentatious display of landed luxury, great 
debts, and separation of management from ownership. 
This new pattern of agrarian organization created a de- 
mand for slaves that could hardly be satisfied. No slave 
system has ever been able to continue to function on the 
slaves provided by its own biological reproduction because 
the rate of human reproduction is too slow and the expense 
from infant mortality and years of unproductive upkeep of 
the young make this prohibitively expensive. This relation- 
ship is one of the basic causes of the American Civil War, 
and was even more significant in destroying ancient Rome. 
The normal method for supplying the slave needs of Class- 

Classical Civilization '319 

ical antiquity was by sales of war captives. But even this 
was not sufficient to meet the demand. It was, however, 
sufficient to make war an endemic element in Roman life. 
The supply of slaves had to be supplemented by other 
means. The senate, which was the chief organ of govern- 
ment and in control of the landed rather than of the com- 
mercial classes, permitted piracy to flourish in the 
Mediterranean because it supplied captives to the slave 
marts. This continued until the middle of the first century 
B.C. when the revolutionary threat from the discontented 
to break up the latifundia forced the owners of these estates 
to seek support from the commercial groups by wiping out 
piracy that preyed on commerce. The ease with which piracy 
was suppressed by Pompey in 67 B.C. is evidence of the lack 
of effort made in this task earlier. 

The supply of slaves was also increased by systematic 
plundering of the Roman provinces and the territories of 
allied states. Cicero tells us that each provincial governor 
had to return after his brief rule with three fortunes pecu- 
lated from the province: one went to pay the bribes that 
had obtained his appointment, a second went to obtain 
acquittal from the charges brought against him on his re- 
turn, and the third was for himself. A similar behavior was 
found among lesser provincial officials, especially the tax 
collectors, who often left an area ruined and depopulated. 
Allied territories were not treated much better than prov- 
inces. About 104 B.C. Marius called upon the allied King 
Nicomedes of Bithynia to provide auxiliary troops for 
services against the Cimbri. The king replied that he was 
unable to do so because of the depopulation of his country 
by the slave raiding of Roman officials. When this message 
reached Rome, the senate ordered that enslaved freeborn 

320' The Evolution of Civilizations 

citizens of Roman allies who were being held in Roman 
provinces should be freed, but after eight hundred were 
freed in Sicily within a few days, the landlords were able to 
exercise sufficient political pressure to stop execution of the 

As a consequence of such methods the number of slaves 
increased greatly in the period of the late republic, and the 
danger of slave revolts increased accordingly. William L. 
Westermann and Tenney Frank agree that at least 250,000 
war captives were enslaved in the first fifty years of the 
second century B.C. Livy tells us that 70,000 slaves partici- 
pated in the Sicilian slave revolt of 135 B.C.; 20,000 were 
armed by the rebels in the Social War in 90 B.C.; while 
Spartacus, who refused help from many, led 120,000 against 
the city in 72 B.C. In 37 B.C. Octavius Caesar trained 
20,000 slaves obtained from his supporters to be oarsmen 
in his struggle with Sextus Pompeius, and, after his victory, 
he restored to their owners 30,000 slaves who had been serv- 
ing with his defeated opponent. 

This great increase in the number of slaves after 250 B.C. 
did not reflect any increase in their productive use. On the 
contrary, all the evidence indicates that larger and larger 
numbers were used in quite nonproductive activities: attend- 
ing their masters, lolling about urban residences, or carry- 
ing letters and packages. Moreover, between Cato (who 
wrote his De Agri Cultura about 160 B.C.) and Varro (who 
wrote his Rerum Rusticarum about 37 B.C.) there was a 
definite shift from a rigorous profit motivation to a more 
humane and leisurely attitude toward slaves. 
Even on the land itself there was a decrease in efficiency. 
The shift of managerial decisions from an owner on the 
spot who had a personal interest in efficiency to a freeman 

Classical Civilization -321 

overseer who had no such interest does much to explain the 
mechanism by which the slave -based agricultural system 
changed from instrument to institution. The owner, of 
course, had a personal concern in increase of output be- 
cause each increase accrued to him. But an overseer had an 
interest in a stable output year by year, something quite 

If an agricultural unit is operated at peak human effi- 
ciency, its output will fluctuate from year to year by a con- 
siderable amount, depending on climate conditions. In such 
a case the overseer of an absentee landlord would have 
obtained only a modicum of praise in good years (since the 
high output was attributed to the weather), but would get a 
maximum of blame in poor years (on the argument that he 
should have been able to anticipate or compensate for ad- 
verse weather conditions). Under such fluctuations the 
overseer would have a precarious tenure and would fre- 
quently have been discharged. 

On the other hand, if the farm had a fairly consistent out- 
put year after year within narrow limits of fluctuation, the 
owner would have secured an annual income on which he 
could depend and the overseer would have a relatively se- 
cure tenure. For this reason there was a general tendency 
for each agricultural unit to approach a fixed annual output. 
Such a steady output could be obtained only by stabilizing 
around the output of the poorer years, since it could not be 
done around the output of the better years. This means that 
the overseer drove his slaves hard if a year's output seemed 
likely to fall below his preset annual output figure, but re- 
laxed discipline whenever it became clear that the year's 
output was likely to exceed the same preset annual output 
goal. The amount of output lost in the latter years (the 

322' The Evolution of Civilizations 

meteorologically better ones) was always more than the 
amount of output gained by driving hard in the years when 
output would be naturally lower, since the preset annual 
figure was closer to the lower-output years than to the 
higher-output years of the farm under efficient management. 
The net result of all this was a reduction and stabilization of 
output on large estates of absentee owners. As the number 
of such estates increased, the output of the whole economy 

This reduction of output for the system as a whole prob- 
ably did not occur until after the time of Augustus or even 
later, and was concealed for a long time by the fact that the 
Roman political system was expanding geographically 
over larger and larger areas and thus obtaining control of 
larger and larger absolute amounts of agricultural produce 
even when the economic system as a whole was not produc- 
ing more each year but less. 

It is, however, very likely that the Mediterranean eco- 
nomic system as a whole reached its highest rate of expan- 
sion before 300 B.C. and was operating at a decreasing rate 
of expansion by 250 B.C. From 200 B.C. to a.d. 200 its 
absolute output increased only slightly, and by the latter 
date economic decline in absolute output had begun. Ac- 
cordingly, the Age of Conflict for the western Mediterranean 
began by 250 B.C. and the period of decay for the whole 
civilization began about A .D . 200. 

5. Universal Empire 

The Universal Empire of Classical civilization was 
achieved with the establishment of the political supremacy 

Classical Civilization *323 

of Rome throughout the Mediterranean in 146 B.C. The 
rise of Rome had little to do with the Age of Expansion. 
Rome began as an Etruscan bridgehead on the south bank 
of the Tiber at a place where several hills on that bank made 
it possible to defend a ford that crossed the river by way of 
an island. Thus from its earliest origin the Roman organiza- 
tion was militarized. Its political expansion, coinciding with 
the decline of the Etruscans, was dominated by military 
considerations. By 250 B.C., when the shift from an Age of 
Expansion to an Age of Conflict gave an increased role to 
any militarized system, Rome was ready to play that role. 
Until that moment the usual features of an Age of Expansion 
were obvious: increased production, increased population, 
increased geographic area for Classical culture as a whole, 
and increased knowledge. Of the lesser attributes of this 
period, democracy is manifest, although science is less so. 
After 250 B.C. the attributes of an Age of Conflict became 
clear: class conflict, imperialist wars, irrationality, and 
declining democracy. All these acted and reacted on the 
agrarian slave system, increasing the number of slaves and 
the size of estates. This monopolization of the land led to a 
depopulation of the Italian countryside. Many peasants 
decided that they could live on the dole in Rome easier than 
they could win a living from the soil. As Seneca wrote about 
A.D. 50, "Country districts which were once the plowlands 
of whole villages are now worked by a single band of slaves, 
and the power of stewards is wider than the realms of kings." 
He also wrote, "Great troops of slaves whom their owner 
does not know by sight and the slave prisons echoing to the 
sound of the lash have no attraction for me." Elsewhere the 
situation was even worse. Pliny tells us that in the time of 
Nero (A.D. 54-68), six men held half the province of Africa. 

324 • The Evolution of Civilizations 

Conditions became worse after 50 B.C. when Italy's in- 
dustry, which had previously produced metal products and 
tasteless pottery for export, was unable to compete success- 
fully with the industrial activity of the provinces, especially 
Gaul. One cause of this may be found in the fact that the 
craftsmen of Italy were mostly slaves, while those of Gaul 
were largely free. As a result of this, commerce, which had 
been flourishing under the republic, began to decrease under 
the empire, the imperial trade being replaced to a consider- 
able extent by local and provincial commerce, except for the 
trade in luxury goods and in grain. The latter continued to 
pour into Italy from the provinces, especially from Egypt, 
which was also the source of papyrus. Under the republic 
Italy still paid for these imports by metal goods, red-ware 
pottery, and other products, but under the empire Italian 
exports decreased in importance, and imports had to be 
paid for in gold or silver. This began a steady flow of 
precious metals from Italy, especially from Rome to the 
provinces. These metals had to be brought back by new 
conquests extending the frontiers and by ransacking of the 
provinces by the provincial governors and armies. Thus 
the army, the imperialist wars, and the corruption in provin- 
cial government were necessary for the economic survival of 
the Roman system. Plunder kept the system functioning 
until the military weakening of Rome made it impossible to 
extend the frontiers further, and neither the supply of si; 
nor the restoration of specie could be maintained. Thus, 
by 146 B.C. the Roman state had become the Universal 
Empire of Classical civilization, although it required another 
century and a half before class conflicts and imperialist 
wars were reduced in frequency. The class conflicts led to 
the so-called civil wars that ended with the triumph of 

Classical Civilization 325 

Augustus Caesar in 31 B.C. The imperialist wars continued 
as Roman attacks on outside peoples, and led to the con- 
quest of Gaul, of Egypt, and of Britain. 

By A.D. 96 the Universal Empire of Classical civilization 
had reached its golden age, a subperiod that continued for 
about three generations (96-180) under the "Five Good 
Emperors." Of this period Gibbon wrote, "If a man were 
called to fix the period in the history of the world during 
which the condition of the human race was most happy and 
prosperous, he would, without hesitation, name that which 
elapsed from the death of Domitian to the accession of 
Commodus." But, as Gibbon knew well, it needed but a 
slight change for this golden prosperity to become the brown 
of overripeness and decay. 

6. Decay 

By a.d. 200 Classical civilization had reached its period 
of decay. With the end of continual warfare and the clear 
inability of Rome's military forces to extend its frontiers 
further, the supply of both slaves and booty ceased. The 
unfavorable balance of payments of Italy became more 
acute. Trade began to decrease sharply, and a tendency for 
each province, even each large estate, to move toward eco- 
nomic self-sufficiency began. There was a return to grain 
growing in Italy. Craft activities began to move from the 
towns to the estates. The towns themselves ceased to grow, 
and later declined. The decreasing supply of slaves and the 
exodus of free persons from the town to the countryside 
gradually brought about an agrarian reorganization in 
which the landlords began to work their estates with tenants, 

326 • The Evolution of Civilizations 

requiring payment in kind and labor services on their own 
holdings as part of the rent. These tenants were called 

Efforts to overcome the chronic economic depression by 
government action led to a much enlarged governmental 
bureaucracy and to an increased tax burden. This fell pri- 
marily on the landlords because of the dwindling commercial 
and craft activities, because the army was no longer paying 
its way from the booty of war but remained an expensive 
financial burden, and because landed wealth was something 
the tax collector could lay his hands on. The scarcity of man- 
power and the efforts of tenants to move from one landlord 
to another seeking better terms gave the landlords an excuse 
for refusing to pay taxes. To obviate such excuses, laws 
were passed forbidding the coloni to move from their tenan- 
cies, making these hereditary, and making the landlord 
responsible for his tenants' taxes since he could be found by 
the tax collector more easily than they could and his lands 
would be surety for payment. Thus the coloni tended to 
become serfs. In time they tended to look to the landlord for 
protection and for settlement of their disputes. At the same 
time, as the government became weaker and more remote, 
the free villagers, or vici, also began to look toward powerful 
local landlords for these same services of protection and 
justice. The government passed laws to prevent this growing 
system of patronage but without stopping it. 
The decline of slavery led to decreased accumulation of 
capital, but investment, as we have seen, had declined 
earlier and more rapidly. The vital issue was no longer 
expansion but survival. The political disorders of the third 
century can be measured by one fact: in sixteen years forty- 

Classical Civilization -327 

six emperors or would-be emperors met death by violence. 
Such disorders, intensified in the fourth and following cen- 
turies by the barbarian migrations, led to a flight from the 
towns to the country. Everyone wanted an established re- 
lationship to the food-producing land. As all municipal life 
decreased in vigor, agrarian units increased in self-suffi- 

The shift of real power from the senate to the armies 
began as early as 100 B.C., but was not legally recognized 
until A.D. 195 when, for the first time, an emperor ruled 
without any senatorial election. Control of the imperial posi- 
tion became a clear power struggle between army com- 
manders. Because such commanders could no longer retain 
the loyalty of their forces by periodic distribution of provin- 
cial booty and foreign slaves, they rewarded them from the 
chief remaining source of wealth, the landed holdings of 
their political opponents. This gradual liquidation of the 
landed class and their replacement by army leaders sprung 
from the more remote and backward areas of the empire 
entirely destroyed the town-dwelling landed elite who had 
been the carriers of the Classical culture. As this aristocratic, 
clarid, urban, moderate, mundane culture was destroyed, it 
was replaced by a welter of unprincipled violence, grasping 
materialism, crass ignorance, crude illiteracy, and narrow, 
rural provincialism. In reaction against this, there eventually 
arose a new spiritualism and asceticism, a flight from world- 
liness, mingled with all kinds of new religious feelings and 
dark superstitions but also containing much exalted spiritu- 
ality. Both of these movements were fatal to the Classical 
ideology. In fact, it became increasingly difficult to find 
anyone with allegiance to the Classical idea, and certainly 

328' The Evolution of Civilizations 

no one was willing to sacrifice or die for it. Yet without its 
ideology no culture can survive. 

7. Invasion 

As the Classical civilization grew weaker, its ability to 
maintain its integrity by defending its frontiers decreased. 
After these frontiers were established along the Rhine, the 
Danube, the Euphrates, the Red Sea, and the northern edge 
of the Sahara, they could not be expanded outward. This 
stopped the supply of slaves and booty that kept the whole 
economic system functioning. Efforts were made to push 
Roman rule across the Rhine, or as far as the Tigris, or 
across the Red Sea, or even across the Sahara, but all such 
efforts ultimately failed. 

As a matter of fact, Rome had increasing difficulty de- 
fending these long-established frontiers themselves. This 
difficulty arose from a number of factors. Rome itself was 
getting weaker. Its ideology was losing allegiance every- 
where; morale was evaporating; the economic system was 
declining; the political system was finding it increasingly 
difficult to get its orders obeyed; the social system was dis- 
integrating. Even the army was becoming completely 
institutionalized, consisting largely of permanent garrisons, 
recruited from barbarians, with only local interests, and 
surely no interest in seeking death for the Classical idea or 
even for the Roman state. At the same time military prob- 
lems were changing. Originally Roman infantry was pushing 
into barbarian territory. Later barbarian horsemen were 
raiding into imperial territory. Ultimately whole barbarian 
tribes were migrating into the empire itself. The inability of 

Classical Civilization '329 

the famous Roman Legion to withstand charging horsemen 
made Rome indefensible. Rome had not had to face this 
problem earlier because adequate rain on the Northern 
Grasslands, century after century, reduced the tendency 
for barbarians to move. But decreased rainfall after a.d . 200 
created a pressure of moving pastoral peoples that became 
irresistible. The final blow here was the pressure of the 
Huns out of the Asiatic steppes and on to the horse-riding 
Germans along the Roman Danubian frontier. The Gothic 
victory over the Roman army at Adrianople in 378 showed 
clearly that the final crisis had been reached. 
What could be done? The situation both of the Roman 
state and of Classical culture was hopeless unless the de- 
fensive forces could be shifted quickly from infantry to 
cavalry. This was impossible, not only for the lack of ex- 
perience in the techniques of cavalry warfare but equally 
because the weakened Classical economic system could not 
support a large number of horses. Horses, as grain-eating 
animals, compete for food directly with men. The ineffi- 
ciency of the Classical Mediterranean economy, based on 
an institutionalized slave system, could not produce such 
a surplus. Yet without cavalry the society could not resist 
the intruding barbarians. 

In fact, the crisis was more fundamental than the simple 
fact of military defense. No one any longer had faith in the 
Classical ideology or in the Classical gods. A new ideology 
and a new religion were needed. Though they were already 
at hand in Christianity, they could not be fitted into the 
Classical culture with which they were fundamentally in- 

A new technology was needed and was also available. It 
would be based on deep plowing with properly harnessed 

330 • The Evolution of Civilizations 

draft animals by persons who would have an interest in 
doing a good job because any additional output arising from 
increased care would accrue to themselves. But such a tech- 
nology was much better adapted to the well-watered, heavy 
soils north of the Alps in the zones of summer crops than 
it was to the thin, seasonally watered light soils of the winter- 
growing Mediterranean. 

A new military technique was also available. Based on 
heavy cavalry, armed with impact weapons, and equipped 
with strong horses, stirrups, and horeshoes, this technique 
was extremely expensive (in terms of grain consumption) 
so that one fighting man had to be supported by a hundred 
or more tillers of the soil. Here again, the areas north of the 
Alps, with their more productive grain fields and more 
adequate grasslands, were far better able to support the new 
system than was the older Mediterranean area. 
The bringing together to form a single culture of these 
various techniques for satisfying man's basic needs required 
a new society. Classical society could not do it. When these 
came together north of the Alps, in the peripheral zone of 
Classical society, there appeared the core area of a new 
Western culture. But at the same time, in the old core area 
of Classical society, in the Aegean, sufficiently profound 
changes occurred in Classical culture to permit a variant of 
it to survive for another thousand years. This gives rise to 
one of the greatest puzzles of analytic history: Was Byzan- 
tine culture a new society or was it merely a revived Classi- 
cal culture? Or is it possible that Byzantine culture is an 
earlier phase of Orthodox (Russian) civilization? In view 
of the fact that Byzantine culture had a different religion, 
ideology, social organization, military and economic tech- 
nology, and almost certainly a different organization of 

Classical Civilization «331 

expansion, it seems difficult to regard it as simply a reformed 
Classical culture. Its relative continuity in politics and law 
is not that significant. On the other hand, it hardly seems 
feasible to regard Byzantium as a wholly new civilization. 
Its brief life of about a thousand years would make it a 
rival with Hittite society for the position of the shortest-lived 
of all civilizations. Whatever decision is made in this difficult 
problem is bound to be unsatisfactory from many points of 
view, just as a mass of quartz at the junction of two or more 
crystals cannot be attributed to one or another with any 

On the other hand, the fissure in the West between Classi- 
cal culture and Western civilization is quite clear. The death 
of one society and the birth of an entirely new civilization in 
the peripheral area of a previous one is quite definite. On 
every level of culture, from the most material technology on 
one extreme to the most abstract ideology or religion on the 
other extreme, these two civilizations are different. 


Western Civilization 

' I 1 he death of Classical civilization and the barbarian 
■*■ migrations that accompanied it left the shores of the 
Mediterranean Sea and an extensive hinterland behind them 
in cultural chaos. The area was filled with shattered social 
groups and cultural wreckage bobbing about on swirls and 
eddies as if a great ship had sunk in a quiet sea. In the next 
three hundred years (500-800) these peoples and cultural 
debris began to integrate to form core areas of three new 
civilizations. All of these were on the extreme periphery of 
the older Classical society. To the southeast, in Arabia, ap- 
peared Islamic civilization; to the northeast, in the Northern 
Flatlands, appeared Orthodox Russian civilization; and in 
the northwest, in France, appeared Western civilization. 
Each of these had its distinctive outlook and organization, 
as all societies do, and the relationship between the three 
became one of the continuing problems of the next fifteen 
hundred years. 

Western civilization presents one of the most difficult 
tasks for historical analysis, because it is not yet finished, 
because we are a part of it and lack perspective, and be- 
cause it presents considerable variation from our pattern of 

334 • The Evolution of Civilizations 

historical change. The first two of these difficulties are ob- 
vious enough. If Western civilization is still in its course, 
its future is not yet settled and its past is, accordingly, cap- 
able of diverse interpretations. Moreover, our own involve- 
ment in it handicaps our interpretation because many of its 
most significant features are so familiar to us that we accept 
them without statement or even recognition. The impor- 
tance of these two difficulties will appear in our own 

Moreover, the analysis of Western civilization in terms of 
the seven stages is difficult because it clearly does not follow 
the straightforward pattern of seven simple stages. Of 
course, any student in any society has an inclination to 
regard his own culture as being in some way exceptional, 
but in this case, more than others, there seems to be ob- 
jective justification for such a feeling. No culture has ever 
exceeded Western civilization in power and extent. Our 
society now covers more than half of the globe, extending in 
space from Poland in the east to Australia in the west. In 
the course of this expansion, most of it during the last five 
centuries, the power of Western civilization has been so 
great that it has destroyed, almost without thinking of it, 
hundreds of other societies, including five or six other 

As we have already indicated, the history of Western 
civilization to the middle of the twentieth century is not a 
simple story of rise and fall, but rather a series of at least 
three successive pulsating movements of expansion. Each 
period of expansion has been followed by an Age of Crisis, 
but in two, and probably in all three, of these crises the 
organization of expansion has been circumvented or re- 
formed sufficiently to provide a new instrument of expan- 

Western Civilization j -335 

sion and accordingly a new period in Stage 3. We have 
already given these three periods of expansion the rough 
dates 970-1270, 1420-1650, and 1730-1929. Each of 
these ended in an Age of Conflict. 

Any such analysis as this is bound to lead to disagreement 
among students of the subject and, as a consequence, it may 
be necessary to give in this chapter some references to 
scholarly research, something we have managed to avoid 
in the earlier chapters of this book. 

Although Western civilization emerged from the wreck- 
age of Classical antiquity, it differed from it in every im- 
portant aspect of its culture. Even in its first three stages it 
had a different military system (based on specialized cavalry 
rather than on infantry), a different technology (based on 
animal power rather than on slavery), a different economic 
organization, a different political organization (formed 
about rural castles rather than around municipal acrop- 
olises), and, above all, an entirely different religious sys- 
tem and basic ideology. The only level where a certain 
similarity between the two cultures could be found is on 
the social levels where both civilizations began with a two- 
class society of fighting nobles and agricultural peasantry 
organized in self-sufficient economic units (genos and 
manor) and slowly changed, in both cases, by the insertion 
of a town-dwelling commercial middle class between the 
original two. We have already spoken of this similarity. 
The differences between the two societies on most levels 
of culture are either well known or will be explained in the 
present chapter. But the most important difference, that on 
the intellectual level, is too significant to be discussed in 
this cursory way. In any society the nonmaterial culture is 
the most significant feature of the whole society, because it 

336 The Evolution of Civilizations 

is the least capable of being exported and because it is 
pervasive in all the other levels as well. In this particular case 
there is the additional necessity for exposition of this aspect, 
because of widespread ignorance or misunderstanding of it. 
We might begin by saying that Western ideology is opti- 
mistic, moderate, hierarchical, democratic, individualistic 
yet social, and dynamic. All these terms refer only to aspects 
of the whole and do not really get us to its essence. This 
essence might be summed up in the belief that "Truth un- 
folds in time through a communal process." Before we 
attempt to analyze this rather cryptic statement, we should 
say a few words about the more superficial aspects. 
The Western outlook is optimistic because it believes 
that the world is basically good and that the greatest good 
lies in the future. This covers all the ideas Etienne Gilson 
included in the term "Christian optimism." The Classical 
ideology began by being mundane and ended with a dualism 
in which it saw the universe as an evil material world 
opposed to a good spiritual sphere. Western ideology be- 
lieves that the material is good and the spiritual is better 
but that they are not opposed to each other since the material 
world is necessary for the achievement of the spiritual world. 
The world and the flesh are good because they were both 
made by God (as in the Old Testament). The material 
world is necessary to the spiritual in two ways: (1) no soul 
exists without a body and (2) no soul can be saved except 
by its own efforts and cooperative actions with other per- 
sons, both of which can be achieved only by bodily actions 
in this world. These ideas appeared clearly in the Christian 
religion, although they had a very difficult time getting 
accepted because the dualistic late Classical ideology re- 
garded the world and the flesh as evil and felt that the spirit 

Western Civilization '337 

could achieve full spirituality only by freeing itself from the 
body, from the world, and from contact with one's fellow 
man and that such spiritual achievement was a consequence 
of the individual's own activity alone, without cooperation 
with his fellow men. This attitude appeared very clearly in 
Persian thinking about 600 B.C., came into Classical an- 
tiquity through the Pythagorean rationalists, and was given 
a clear, explicit, and influential statement in Plato's Phaedo 
about 385 B.C. Although quite incompatible with the Classi- 
cal outlook, these ideas became increasingly influential and 
became the generally accepted philosophic outlook after the 
third century of our era. This led to a phenomenal outgrowth 
of anchoritism in the third to sixth centuries. It must be 
recognized that this philosophic position was basically in- 
compatible with the religious ideas of Christianity. The 
latter has been threatened ever since by dualistic heresies 
(like Arianism, Catharism, or Jansenism) derived from this 
philosophic background. 

Western ideology believed that the world was good be- 
cause it was made by God in six days and that at the end of 
each day He looked at His work and said that it was good. 
This meant that the world was a comprehensible place (one 
of the basic ideas of Western science) and that its existence 
unfolded in time (not by instantaneous creation or through 
eternal existence). The body was also good, being made by 
God in His own image. Man needed others in order to de- 
velop his capacities in time, and he needed his body, his 
fellow men, and God's help, as well as his own efforts to 
achieve, over time, salvation in the future. This salvation 
included the body as well as the soul ("resurrection of the 
body and life everlasting") and could be achieved by good 
works (requiring a body and one's fellow men) and God's 

338- The Evolution of Civilizations 

grace (granted by God Himself taking a human body and 
living in time in this world). All of these things were clearly 
stated in the New Testament, and the objections to them 
arising from Classical dualism were firmly rejected at the 
first church council held at Nicaea in 325. The full implica- 
tions of the injunction to "love thy neighbor" were not com- 
pletely unfolded in these two steps but continue to be so 
through the present and into the future. 

While the aristocratic Classical culture had put the 
golden age in the past, more democratic Western culture 
put it (and salvation) in the future. This optimistic and 
hopeful attitude applied to most aspects of Western life. Its 
hierarchical aspect appeared originally in the belief that the 
spiritual rested on the material (not opposed to it) and also 
came to apply to much of life. This led to a basic distinction 
(now largely lost) between necessary and important, in 
which material things were necessary but spiritual things 
were important. 

The democratic and individualistic aspects of the Western 
outlook were always present, and go back, like other aspects, 
to the New Testament. They rest on the belief that all men 
have souls fit for salvation and, in the long run, have equal 
opportunity to achieve salvation. These ideas also appear in 
Christ's concern with the downtrodden and oppressed, in the 
belief that the first and greatest sin was pride (the sin of 
Lucifer) and that the greatest virtue was humility, in the 
Beatitudes and in many parables (such as that of the lost 
sheep). It is worthy of note that all these points are con- 
cerned not only with the individual's relationship to himself 
and to God but also with his relationship to his fellow men. 
All these, along with the emphasis on good works and the 
importance of sacraments, show the significance of the 

Western Civilization '339 

social element in Western thought. The same significance 
was underlined in the idea that man can be fully man and 
fully please God only in society. This idea was reflected 
in religion in the idea of the church (the societas perfecta), 
the belief that salvation could be obtained most readily 
through the church, the idea of the sacraments (all of which 
require the presence of at least two persons and most of 
which require three), the efforts, in the sixth century, to 
replace anchorites with monks (that is, to replace a late 
Classical aberration with a system more compatible with 
Western sociality). 

All these different aspects of the Western outlook cluster 
about the essence of the outlook that we have tried to express 
in the statement that "Truth unfolds through a communal 
process." The outlook to which this statement refers lies at 
the foundation of Western culture and is reflected equally 
in its religion, its politics, its science, and its economics. 
This outlook assumes, first, that there is a truth or goal 
for man's activity. Thus it rejects despair, solipsism, skepti- 
cism, pessimism, and chaos. It implies hope, order, and the 
existence of a meaningful objective external reality. And it 
provides the basis for science, religion, and social action as 
the West has known these. 

Second, this attitude assumes that no one, now, has the 
truth in any complete or even adequate way; it must be 
sought or struggled for. Thus this outlook rejects smugness, 
complacency, pride, and personal authority in favor of the 
Christian virtues and a kind of basic agnosticism (with the 
implication "We don't yet know everything"), as well as the 
idea of achievement of good through struggle to reach the 
good. The earliest great work of German literature, Parzival, 
has as its subtitle "The Brave Man Slowly Wise." This is 

340 • The Evolution of Civilizations 

typical of the Western ideology's belief that wisdom (or any 
real achievement) comes as a consequence of personal effort 
in time. The same idea is to be found in Dante's Divine 
Comedy, in Shakespeare's tragedies (taken as a whole), and 
in Beethoven's symphonies. 

There are two important ideas here: one is that no one 
has the whole truth now but that it can be approached 
closer and closer in the future, by vigorous effort, and the 
other is that no single individual does this or achieves this, 
but that it must be achieved by a communal effort, by a kind 
of cooperation in competition in which each individual's 
efforts help to correct the errors of others and thus help the 
development of a consensus that is closer to the truth than 
the actions of any single individual ever could be. We might 
call these two aspects the temporal and the social. They are 
covered in our maxim by the words "unfolds" and "social." 
There is also a third idea here; namely, that the resulting 
consensus is still not final, although far superior to any 
earlier or more individual version. Thus the advance of man- 
kind or of any single individual is an endless process in 
which truth (or any achievement, even the development 
of an individual's personality) is constantly approached 
closer and closer without ever being finished or reached. 
We might mention also another phase of this outlook; 
namely, the idea that the cooperative effort that unfolds 
truth through a continuously developing consensus is a 
competitive process. More accurately it is cooperation 
through competition, as a game is. This refers to a social 
process that is superficially competitive but fundamentally 
cooperative, or, viewed in another way, a situation in which 
individuals compete and even struggle together for a higher 
social end (the consensus). This is a dialectic process and 

Western Civilization *341 

is one of the heritages from Classical antiquity, where this 
idea of the emergence of truth from pluralistic debate in the 
market place is found in the earlier dialogues of Plato and 
of other thinkers. It is worthy of note that Plato, while 
retaining the form of the dialogue, really abandoned its 
function in his later writings (the Republic and those follow- 
ing) by using Socrates as the spokesman of his own ideas 
that contain the whole truth, while the other speakers con- 
tribute nothing to the final achievement since their ideas are 
erroneous and must be corrected by Socrates. 
This idea of the fruitful debate from which truth grows is 
the basis for the method of medieval intellectual advance 
(in spite of the erroneous theory so widely accepted that 
medieval ideas were rigid systems imposed by authority). 
This conception is of course found behind medieval exposi- 
tion as in Abelard's Sic et Non or Aquinas's Summa 
theologica, but it is much more fully realized in the process 
by which medieval ideas were reached than in the form in 
which they were presented. However, in both there was a 
fundamental assumption that each presentation was tempor- 
ary and not fully perfect and was subject to improvement in 
a later revision as a consequence of criticism. The idea, so 
widely spread today that the Summa theologica was a final, 
complete, and permanent presentation of its subject, was not 
held at the time by anyone, least of all by Aquinas himself. 
After all, the Angelic Doctor offered the world at least three 
versions of this subject — the Summa . . . contra Gentiles, the 
Summa theologica, and the incomplete but really much im- 
proved Compendium Theologiae. 

This attitude, to which I have referred by the maxim about 
the social unfolding of truth, is the basis of the Western 
religious outlook. This outlook believed that religious truth 

342- The Evolution of Civilizations 

unfolded in time and is not yet complete. The Old Testa- 
ment, for example was not canceled or replaced by the New 
Testament but was supplemented by it. And the New Testa- 
ment was never, in most of the life of Western civilization, 
regarded as a literal, explicit, and final statement of the 
truth. Rather, recognition of its truths have to be developed 
in time, by social action, from basically symbolic statements. 
Thus the doctrine of the Christian church was unfolded 
through church councils (like that at Nicaea) and by con- 
ferences of learned doctors and clerics, without ever any 
feeling that the process was finished. The fundamentalist 
position on biblical interpretation, with its emphasis on the 
explicit, complete, final, and authoritarian nature of Scrip- 
ture, is a very late, minority view quite out of step with the 
Western tradition. 

Closely related to this idea of the unfolding of doctrine 
through the church is the idea of the development of the 
individual, both in life and in death, toward the Beatific 
Vision. The same idea about the social (and dialectic) un- 
folding of truth is at the foundation of Western science. It 
assumes that science is never static or fully achieved, but 
pursues a constantly receding goal to which we approach 
closer and closer from the competition-cooperation of indi- 
vidual scientists, each of whom offers his experiments and 
theories to be critically reexamined and debated by his fel- 
low scientists in a joint effort to reach a higher (and 
temporary) consensus. 

The same outlook appears in the basic political ideas of 
the West. These are liberal and not authoritarian. They 
cannot be authoritarian because no individual or institution 
has full and final truth; instead a fuller and more complete 
truth emerges as a guide to social activity from the free 

Western Civilization • 343 

debate in free assembly of all men's partial truths. Thus 
liberalism in this sense is basic in the outlook of the West 
and goes back, as we indicated earlier, to the dissociation of 
state and society in the Dark Ages when the former van- 
ished and the latter continued. In its narrowest version this 
idea appeared as the theory that all men with different out- 
looks or contributions cooperate together to form something 
greater than the partial opinions of any of them. This kind of 
pluralism is assumed by the Polycraticus of John of Salisbury 
in the twelfth century as much as it is assumed by the United 
States Constitution in the eighteenth century. 
The same kind of pluralist outlook is the real justification 
of capitalism and of all laissez-faire or pluralist economic 
systems so typical of the West even in its early period when 
economic development was taking its first steps. It is the 
outlook behind the nineteenth century "Community of 
Interests" that has been exposed to such critical onslaughts 
in the twentieth century but yet remains as the unstated 
assumption behind our economic attitudes as they operate 
in actions. 

Thus we see the basic ideology of the West reflected in 
all aspects of the society, and continuing to influence ideas 
and actions even after it has been explicitly rejected. It is, for 
example, behind the theories of such late and "unconven- 
tional" thinkers as Darwin or Marx, both of whom believed 
that the Better emerged from the Good by the superficial 
struggles of the many to achieve what could never have been 
reached by any single individual alone. In fact, of these two, 
Marxist dialectic materialism is rather closer to the Western 
tradition than Darwin's struggle for existence is. Marx, like 
his mentor Hegel, was Western in his belief that progress is 
achieved through struggle, but, like Hegel, he committed 

344 • The Evolution of Civilizations 

the Western sin of pride (the sin of Lucifer) in the intellec- 
tual arrogance which expected achievement of a final goal 
in the material world and in the near future. 
Part of the difficulty to be found in analysis of the history 
of Western civilization arises from the vicissitudes of the 
'Western tradition." These difficulties were present through- 
out Western history. In the early period (say up to 1150) 
the difficulty arose from the fact that the religious outlook 
and practices of our society were incompatible with the in- 
tellectual outlook and philosophy derived from the dualistic 
ideas of the Platonic and Neoplatonic tradition. Thus, in a 
figure like Augustine, we find a Christian religious outlook 
combined with a Platonic philosophic outlook with which 
it is really not compatible. One consequence of this situation 
was a great prevalence of dualistic heresies. These were con- 
demned as part of the religious settlement at Nicaea in 325, 
but they were not really overcome in philosophy until the 
twelfth century. At this latter time the triumph of moderate 
realism, as represented by Abelard, Albertus Magnus, or 
Thomas Aquinas, over exaggerated realism, as represented 
by St. Anselm or William of Champeaux, represented the 
achievement, within Christian society, of a philosophy that 
was compatible with its religious outlook. The official 
acceptance by the papacy in the early fourteenth century 
of Thomism, in spite of the attacks of the exaggerated real- 
ists, sealed this victory. Such a victory, in accordance with 
the tradition of the West, was not a victory of one extreme 
view over another but rather a moderate synthesis of the 
extremes in a higher unity. Thus the exaggerated realist 
extremists said that the universal was real and that the 
individual was an illusion (a position totally incompatible 
with Christianity and therefore never held, in this extreme 

Western Civilization '345 

form, by any orthodox Christian). At the other end of the 
spectrum, the nominalists said that the individual was real 
and that the universal was only a word (or a subjective 
concept). The Thomistic compromise, which was com- 
patible with Christianity and the Western tradition, said that 
both the individual and the universal were real. This syn- 
thesis disrupted very soon into two extremist positions, 
represented in philosophy by Scotist realism and Occamite 
nominalism. The same scission into two extremes was found 
in religion during the late Middle Ages between these who 
advocated salvation through good works (like St. Francis 
of Assisi and Thomas a Kempis) and those who advocated 
salvation through God's grace (the new ascetics, mystics, 
and ultimately the Protestants), each group tending to place 
such emphasis on its own path to salvation as almost to 
deny the other extreme. Or again, within the church ap- 
peared a split between those who emphasized it as a tem- 
poral organization (and thus corrupted it) and those who 
emphasized it as a spiritual group, and thus (like Savona- 
rola, Huss, and Luther) tended to deny its organization. 
From this it can be seen that the ideology of the Christian 
West was essentially a moderate one. It was constantly 
threatened, as moderates always are, by extremism. When 
these extremists argued for "either-or," the Western tradi- 
tion answered "both!" But this answer was no sooner given 
than new appeals by extremists sought to reopen the debate, 
to destroy the moderates, and to disrupt the synthesis. The 
extremists from one side (the Left, if you will) based their 
appeals on individualism, the senses, and materialism, and 
thus on the Christian insistence on the need of the world and 
the body. The extremists from the other side (the Right, we 
might say) based their appeal on society, rationalism, and 

346 • The Evolution of Civilizations 

spirituality, and thus on the Christian emphasis on the soul, 
God's grace, and the perfect rationality of God. Ultimately, 
in the history of ideas, the former extreme goes back to the 
Hebrews and to the Ionian atomists, while the latter extreme 
goes back to Persian Zorastrianism and to the Pythagorean 
rationalists, above all, to Plato. Within Western religious 
history (and the history of the church, which is both 
temporal and spiritual) these two extremes have been rep- 
resented by corruption and by dualistic heresy. It is easy for 
us to see how corruption (that is, too great emphasis on the 
material and temporal aspect) destroys religion, but it is 
not so easy for many to see how too great spirituality (that 
is, too great emphasis on the nonmaterial and eternal aspect) 
can destroy religion. This condition arises because religion 
is a linking (from ligare, to join together, as in English 
"ligament" or "ligature") of the two extremes (man and 
God) that cannot exist if either extremity is absent. 
In the history of Western nonmaterial culture, including 
religion and philosophy, the threat to the synthesized moder- 
ate middle ground from the Right has come from dualistic 
rationalism and especially from the influence of Plato. This 
influence has worked historically through Augustine of 
Hippo, who was a Platonist in philosophy although a Chris- 
tian in religion. In the field of religion itself, this influence 
has given rise to dualistic heresies of which the chief, as 
might be expected, have appealed to Augustine. Augustine 
himself was not a heretic. He said, "Man is saved by God's 
grace," but he never said, "Man is saved by God's grace 
alone." Since the orthodox position (the middle ground) 
was that man was saved by God's grace and his own good 
works among his fellow men, Augustine's statement was 
incomplete but not Wrong (that is heretical). Only when 

Western Civilization *347 

this partial statement was accepted as a whole, complete, 
and final statement did it become heresy. But the tendency 
for the Rightest extremists to do this was very strong, and 
this tendency was most irresistible among those who were 
closest to the Augustinian tradition. Thus Luther, who was 
an Augustinian monk, did believe in salvation by grace 
alone, and the last great heresy (from the spiritual extrem- 
ists) was Jansenism, which grew out of Jansen's book the 
Augustinus, a study of Augustine's theology (1632). This 
spread through figures like Pascal and the Port Royal group 
and was condemned as a heresy by the papacy in the bull 
Unigenitus in 1715. 

Of course, the threat to the Western ideology based on 
synthetic moderation came equally, if not more, easily from 
the Left, from the materialists and nominalists. But this is 
a well-known story that needs to be mentioned here only 
because the loss of the ideology of Western civilization (like 
the earlier loss of the ideology of Classical civilization) will 
rest rather on the overemphasis on materialism and selfish 
individualism than it will on overemphasis of rationalism 
or spirituality. 

In most civilizations, as we have already shown, there is a 
strong tendency for the basic ideology of the society to 
become lost and misunderstood during the Age of Conflict 
and to be abandoned totally in the Age of Decay. Since 
Western civilization has gone into an Age of Conflict three 
times, the threat to the society's ideology has been practi- 
cally endemic. Anyone who wishes to recover this ideology 
can do so by reflecting on the word "moderation" or the 
expression "reconciliation of extremes" or, more abstrusely, 
on our maxim about the "unfolding of truth through social 
activity over time." When our old professor said of Goethe 

348 • The Evolution of Civilizations 

that he was "conciliatory," he was saying that he was a 
figure in the Western tradition; but when we say that Hitler 
was an extremist or a fanatic we are equally clearly exclud- 
ing Hitler from the real Western tradition. 

1. Mixture 

The mixture of cultural elements that formed Western 
society came from four chief sources. One of these was 
Classical culture, whose greatest influence was in law, gov- 
ernment, philosophy, and science. Another was the Semitic 
influence, which came largely through Christianity and the 
Jewish people and thus spread its effects largely in the field 
of religion and morality. The third influence, that of the 
barbarians, was a very diffused one, and is chiefly notable in 
social relations and technology; while the last, coming from 
the Saracens, consists mostly in incidental items and served 
also as an intermediary in the transfer of Classical influences. 
The creation of the new society was a lengthy and painful 
process in which the most vital changes occurred at opposite 
ends of the cultural spectrum in the areas of military tech- 
nology and of religion. The religious influence, which we 
have already mentioned, served to divorce peoples' alle- 
giance from Classical culture and to focus it on a new 
ideology for which men were willing to sacrifice their wealth, 
leisure, and safety. The military influence sprang from the 
need to find a method by which Christian groups could be 
defended from the onslaughts of pagan invaders. 
A Christian society could arise and maintain itself only 
if its members could be defended against non-Christian in- 
truders. The older, Classical military tactics had been based 

Western Civilization 349 

on infantry, fighting in compact masses and highly disci- 
plined so that they could not be broken under enemy attack 
but rather would remain in alignment and position so that 
each individual could be at least partly covered by the shield 
and sword of his neighbor. This infantry technique, which 
had undergone only slight modifications in the long period 
from the Greek hoplites and Macedonian phalanxes to 
Roman legions, had become completely obsolete in the 
fourth century of our era before the impact of charging 
horsemen. The threat from these horsemen rested not only 
on their possession of mounts but also on the fact that these 
horses could be used day after day without resting because 
hoof-wear was prevented by iron horseshoes, and the impact 
of their lances on standing men was greatly increased by 
the use of stirrups. We do not know exactly when horseshoes 
and stirrups were introduced into the West, but it is certain 
that they were invented fairly early in the Christian period 
in the Northern Flatlands of Asia, probably by one of the 
Ural-Altaic- speaking peoples, and were introduced into 
Europe during the period of barbarian migrations. It is pos- 
sible that the Huns had these innovations as early as the 
fourth century, and this may well explain the horrors these 
people evoked in the West. One of the chief reasons for the 
widespread fear of the Huns rested on their ability to travel 
very long distances in relatively short periods. This ability 
may well have been based on their use of horseshoes. 
The new military tactic of mounted men fighting in loose 
groups armed with lances or spears required so much skill 
and training that fighting men had to be specialists, free to 
practice because they were supported economically by 
others. This requirement made it inevitable that the new 
Christian society must be a two-class society divided into 

350- The Evolution of Civilizations 

those who fought from horseback and those who produced 
the food to support all persons and their animals. The fight- 
ing man in this organization was very expensive because his 
horses (he needed at least two), his arms, and his leisure 
to practice fighting were expensive. This meant that the 
ratio, in the society, between soil tillers and fighters would 
be high, something in the order of a hundred to one. The 
specialized fighters and the specialized toil tillers in this or- 
ganization were very unequal in power, although, perhaps, 
not so overwhelmingly unequal as we might guess. When 
the organization reached its full development in the late 
eleventh century, the knight provided all the protection and 
the peasant (by then usually a serf) provided all the food. 
The knight needed food as much as the peasant needed pro- 
tection, but the time ratio between these needs was to the 
advantage of the knight to such an extent that he could use 
his power against the peasant in the short run (to enforce 
obedience) so long as he did not injure the peasant's ca- 
pacity to produce food in the long run. This power ratio 
of knight and serf was so great that it was possible for 
knights to force serfs to contribute to their support beyond 
the amount necessary for the expenses of protection alone. 
Accordingly, there was a flow of the economic necessities 
produced by the serfs into the possession of the knights. 
Thus the medieval knight became a surplus-creating instru- 
ment as well as an instrument of defense, a political power, 
and the upper class in the social system. 

This complex organization on the military, political, so- 
cial, and economic levels is called feudalism. It was sup- 
ported by an economic organization of self-sufficient 
agricultural units called manors, and acted as the surplus- 

Western Civilization -35 1 

creating organization of the instrument of expansion of 
Western civilization in its first four stages. The whole system 
was supported by the economic production of the peasant. 
This latter relationship was so vital for the existence of the 
system that the peasant was legally forbidden to leave his 
position on the land and thus became a serf. On the whole, 
the peasant did not resist serfdom, since it gave him a 
secure status that provided protection and justice. 

2. Gestation 

The period of mixture of Western civilization was merely 
a continuation of the period of invasion of Classical civiliza- 
tion and lasted from about a.d. 370 to at least 750. It was 
followed by a period of gestation of about two hundred 
years. The two periods together had to achieve three tre- 
mendous tasks: first, to bring into existence the new Chris- 
tian society by creating relationships between groups and 
individuals and by establishing patterns of ideas and activity 
that would permit a new society to survive; second, to repel 
invasions of non-Christian cultures or to enforce conformity 
to the new Christian patterns by those who could not be 
expelled; and, third, the accumulation and investment func- 
tions of the instrument of expansion must begin to operate. 
These three tasks were achieved in the order in which 
we have listed them, the first in the period of mixture, the 
third in the period of gestation, and the second bridging 
over both periods. This second was such a gigantic task 
that it delayed the achievement of the third task and led 
the society into political ambitions that could not possibly 

352 • The Evolution of Civilizations 

be supported by the economic base available. These ambi- 
tions took the form of the Carolingian Empire, whose brief 
life covered the generation before 814. 

The task of repelling invaders from Christian society was 
extraordinarily successful. To us today it is still a puzzle 
as to how it was achieved. As late as 732 the Saracen in- 
vaders were only fifty miles fom Paris, but as early as 1099 
the Christian counterattack on the Saracens had captured 
Jerusalem. During most of this interval the attacks on the 
West continued, by Vikings and Northmen in the Baltic and 
North Sea areas, by pagan Germans and Turkic peoples 
from the East, and by the Saracens in the Mediterranean 
area. In one way or another, these peoples were pushed back 
or were adopted into Western society. 

The success of these military achievements, especially by 
the Carolingians, led to their abortive effort to reestablish 
in Europe a recreated universal Roman Empire. This was an 
overextension of military and political ambitions quite un- 
warranted by the social and economic conditions. In terms 
of our analysis it meant that surpluses being accumulated 
by the political and military organizations were being ex- 
pended in the same levels in an effort to expand on these 
levels more rapidly than the economic basis would allow. 
Before any centralized political system such as Charle- 
magne's could function steadily, it was necessary to achieve 
a very great expansion and intensification of the economic 
level by diverting the surpluses being accumulated on the 
political and military levels into the economic level. 
The real difficulties on the political and military levels 
that made the Carolingian effort fail were in respect to three 
phenomena: (1) poor transportation, (2) poor communi- 
cations, and (3) the superiority of defensive weapons. We 

Western Civilization • 353 

have already mentioned that the old Roman Empire was 
supported on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea by the 
superiority of sea transportation over land transportation, 
thus binding the shores of the sea to each other more closely 
than any shore was bound to its own hinterland. The re- 
creation of a universal Carolingian Empire would have 
needed a system of land transportation able to bind Europe 
into a unified whole. No such system existed or could exist 
in the year 800. Roads were almost totally lacking, and 
could not be supported in any adequate fashion by the 
limited output of the economic system. At that time Europe 
was just obtaining from the East an adequate method of 
harnessing, including the horse collar and traces, but this 
method was not yet widely known, and the economic sys- 
tem was not able to support any large number of horses or 
men devoted to transportation. 

Closely related to the lack of transportation was the in- 
adequacy of communications, including that basic item, the 
level of literacy. Literacy has been associated historically 
with the existence either of a priestly group seeking to keep 
records or of a commercial group seeking to communicate 
over a distance as well as to keep records. The transporta- 
tion inadequacy that led to self-sufficient manors and the 
political disorder that gave a low level of personal security 
combined to make commerce almost impossible in the early 
medieval period. Without a commercial group, literacy thus 
was a monopoly of the clergy, but even here poverty and 
disorder led to a high degree of localism and a decrease in 
communication and in literacy. Without these things no 
centralized government could possibly function, and the 
Carolingian effort to establish one proved abortive. It is 
worthy of note that the subsequent revival of government, 

354 • The Evolution of Civilizations 

after the tenth century, followed very closely the revival of 
literacy among the clergy and a new commercial class and 
that rulers made use of these two groups in sequence to 
count their moneys and handle their communications and 

The third factor in the disappearance of centralized gov- 
ernment was the superiority of defensive weapons. For any 
government to function, it must be able to know what is 
happening at a distance, to communicate its orders, and to 
enforce obedience to these. The enforcement of obedience 
to orders cannot go further than the limit of the superiority 
of offensive power over defensive power. In the year a.d. 
900 there was no such superiority. On the contrary, the de- 
fense was superior over the offensive to a degree that has 
never been exceeded in the historic period, even during its 
nearest analogy — the Mediterranean world about 1000 B.C. 
The military system of Europe about a.d. 1000 is of 
extraordinary interest because it was built about two "su- 
preme weapons," neither of which could defeat the other. 
These were the mounted knight and the castle. Quite ob- 
viously, a castle could not defeat a knight. And, almost 
equally obviously, a knight could not defeat a castle. The 
only way that a knight or group of knights could defeat a 
castle was by siege, but this was extremely difficult during 
the early Middle Ages because of the technical difficulty of 
supplying a besieging force at a distance so that it could 
starve out the defenders before it starved itself from ex- 
haustion of supplies. Any besieging force had to be stronger 
than the besieged or it would be driven from the area and 
the siege broken. But to maintain a superior besieging force 
placed an almost impossible burden on the available trans- 
port. The besiegers could starve out the besieged only if 

Western Civilization *355 

they could supply a larger force at a distance than the be- 
sieged had available in their own stores. This was such an 
unlikely possibility for much of the Middle Ages that a 
castle remained as a supreme defensive weapon for most 
of that period. Politically this means that anyone who had 
a castle could say "no" to any order and could not be forced 
to submit. This means that every such castle became a 
nucleus of political independence and, since there were 
thousands of such castles in Europe about 1000, it meant 
that Europe was divided into thousands of independent po- 
litical units and that centralized political power over any 
extended area was impossible. In this situation the clash of 
knight against knight was much less significant, for a knight, 
even when defeated on the field, could not be made to obey 
if he could retire into his castle. 

The defensive superiority of the castle inhibited the 
growth of larger political units longer than the inadequacy 
of transportation might warrant because of the intrusion of 
other factors. One of these delaying factors is to be found 
in the organization of feudalism itself. Feudal relationships 
sought to organize over larger areas by subinfeudation. By 
this process a lord would be owed military service and 
advice (auxilium et concilium) from a large number of 
vassals, each supported by an economic unit (fief) orga- 
nized in manors. Efforts to organize these relationships into 
larger and larger systems led to problems that students of 
organization call "problems of span." If, for example, the 
king of France had the right to expect 5,000 knights to 
answer his summons to military service, he would face an 
insoluble problem of span if he had to send out 5,000 
individual summonses because he had 5,000 separate in- 
dividual vassals. To avoid this the lord reduced the number 

356' The Evolution of Civilizations 

of his direct vassals to a manageable span by requiring 
numerous knights' services from each vassal. Thus the king 
of France could still summon 5,000 fighting men to service 
if he had 50 vassals each of whom owed 100 fighting men's 
services or if he divided up the 5,000 into any two factors 
whose product would provide 5,000 men. The vassals who 
owed plural service could obtain the necessary fighting men 
by subinfeudating the fiefs that supported these fighters to 
their own vassals, or through them to their vassals' vassals. 
As these relationships became etablished, each vassal sought 
to specify what he owed his lord, and thus there gradually 
arose customary limits on the military service a lord could 
demand from his vassals. In many areas these limits came to 
be understood as no more than forty days' military service 
each year and at no greater distance than two or three days' 
ride (forty to fifty miles) from the vassal's residence. These 
limits made it impossible to besiege a castle successfully 
within the limits, and this served to extend the defensive 
invulnerability of a castle against feudal forces even after 
the period when the inadequacy of transportation had 
hampered sieges. 

The interplay of these influences, and others not yet 
mentioned, were such as to create three subperiods in the 
history of castle defense and thus in the history of political 
development. The first period, when transportation inade- 
quacy was the chief factor, is the period of political feudal- 
ism. This political period continued until the late eleventh 
century because of the importance of limitations on a 
vassal's military service in feudal customary law. Eventually 
feudal knights began to be replaced by similar fighters serv- 
ing for pay rather than for feudal obligation. These merce- 
nary men-at-arms (as they are called) served as long as they 

Western Civilization -357 

were paid, and thus could capture a castle by siege simply 
by starving it out if transport of supplies was adequate. 
Since all possessors of castles did not have sufficient eco- 
nomic resources to obtain mercenary men-at-arms, those 
who did could besiege those who did not and force obedience 
upon the latter. This led to a reduction in the number of 
independent political units because it reduced the number 
who could refuse obedience to orders. Thus the number of 
political units in Europe became less, and the areas over 
which their orders could be enforced (or over which their 
"writ ran," as the saying went) became larger. This led 
to a second stage in the development of European political 
organization, known as "feudal monarchy." The number of 
political units in Europe was reduced from thousands to 

The next step forward in the development of the political 
level reduced the number of European political units from 
hundreds to scores and gave us a new stage in political 
development to which we apply the name "dynastic mon- 
archy." The military factor that contributed to its growth 
was the rise of artillery that made the private stone castle 
obsolete, since guns could shatter the walls of a castle and 
thus force its owner to submit. Artillery first appeared about 
1325, but its effects were not clearly evident for two hundred 
years. Then they became so clear that when a great lord 
wanted a residence after 1530 he built a palace rather than 
a castle. In this way, at the price of political submission to 
the royal artillery, the lord obtained an indefensible, but 
much more comfortable, residence at a lower cost. 
The number of lords with the financial and economic 
resources to obtain artillery was, of course, much less 
than the number who had mercenary men-at-arms, so that 

358 • The Evolution of Civilizations 

the former could enforce obedience from the latter. Political 
units became fewer in number and larger in area. The 
possession of artillery became the dividing line between 
public authority and private power, and later between pos- 
session of castles and the lack, as well as between the 
possession of a royal title and its lack. All these served to 
demark a period of "dynastic monarchy" in the political 
level at the rough date 1500. 

This period of dynastic monarchy (1500-1800) and 
even the preceding period of feudal monarchy (1100-1500) 
are, of course, subsequent to the Age of Gestation of West- 
ern civilization, but this examination of the factors necessary 
for the rise of these later stages of political development 
will show the futility of the Carolingian effort to create a 
revived universal monarchy at a time when even the earliest 
of these factors, transportation, was still in retreat. 
As long as transportation was lacking and political dis- 
order continued, the Age of Gestation continued. The de- 
mands of political and military life made it almost impossible 
for the feudal organization to amass surpluses and to direct 
these surpluses into expansive channels. Only in the final 
quarter of the tenth century was this situation reversed, and 
a new period of expansion, the first in Western civilization, 

3. Expansion 

The first stage of expansion in Western civilization lasted 
for about three centuries (970-1270) and was one of the 
greatest of such periods in human history. Its instrument of 
expansion was the feudal system in which a small minority 

Western Civilization *359 

of fighting men and clergy were supported by a great ma- 
jority of peasants. The contributions of the latter to the 
former were far greater than the costs of protection and 
justice they received in return, so that surpluses accumulated 
in the possession of the upper class. At first these surpluses 
were used for political ends, to build castles or to rebuild 
older timbered fortifications in stone. But soon investment 
in economic activities began. This appeared either in agri- 
culture or in the encouragement of long-distance com- 
merce in luxury goods. The agricultural expansion was 
extensive, and took the form of establishing manors in 
unfilled areas by clearing wastelands or forests or by drain- 
ing swamplands. When this was done by secular lords, the 
new manors were generally similar to the older manors of 
the self-sufficient, balanced three-field type. But increasingly 
the manors spread by clerical, above all by monastic, groups 
were of a new type producing still the basic needs of their 
own inhabitants but adding to this an increasing surplus out- 
put of some product for sale off the manor. In grassy or 
hilly areas these surplus products from new manors were 
likely to be wool, wines, or dairy products (chiefly cheeses), 
but in ordinary terrain it might be grain. 
The accumulation of surplus in the hands of "the lords 
spiritual and temporal" also created a demand for remote 
luxury goods derived from commerce. From the eastern 
forests opened by Varangians there came, by way of the 
Baltic, various forest products such as furs, honey, wax, and 
later hemp, tar, and even lumber. From the Levant there 
came across the Mediterranean more exotic products, includ- 
ing fine textiles, fine metal products, spices, and dyes. Even- 
tually, links between these two great sea routes were estab- 
lished, the earliest being the Russian river route, then from 

360- The Evolution of Civilizations 

Italy across the Brenner to Innsbruck, Nuremberg, and the 
North German rivers, or across the western Alpine passes 
to the Rhone, Champagne, and the northwestern rivers to 
the Low Countries. In the first part of the fourteenth cen- 
tury an all- sea link was opened by way of the Strait of 
Gibraltar and Bay of Biscay to the Narrow Seas. 
The revival of commerce, especially in the twelfth cen- 
tury, gave rise to a new social class isolated from the 
agricultural process, and living in towns rather than on 
manors. This new middle class, or bourgeoisie, created such 
a demand for the necessities of life that a new kind of com- 
merce, of local origin and concerned with necessities, ap- 

These three innovations — commerce, the middle classes, 
and town life — represented a social and economic revolution 
in Western society. They led to increased literacy, support 
for the revival of public authority, new ideas, new morality, 
and acute religious problems. Taken together these provide 
a fairly typical example of Stage 3 in a civilization. 
The usual characteristics of Stage 3 are easy to identify 
in the period 1270-1300: increased production, growing 
population, geographic expansion, and increased knowl- 
edge. To a lesser degree, and somewhat belated, can be 
seen the growth of science, but democratic elements, while 
present, were unable to develop far because of the continued 
supremacy of specialized weapons. These kept power se- 
curely in the hands of a minority. 

4. Conflict 

The old view of our grandfathers that the Middle Ages 
was a static and backward era is now accepted by almost 

Western Civilization *361 

no one, but it is not so generally recognized that medieval 
expansion was slowing down by the end of the thirteenth 
century and that the society was entering upon a typical 
age of conflict. The three hundred years of expansion that 
were drawing to a close as Aquinas died in 1274 had been 
financed by the demand of the upper classes for luxury 
goods of distant origin. In time this demand was reinforced 
and extended by the demands of the successful commercial 
groups for both luxuries and necessities. But by 1274 the 
feudal organization, especially the feudal lords, had become 
institutionalized into an obsolescent structure with few 
functions and a powerful determination to resist further 
change and to defend its own social position. This institu- 
tionalized feudalism is called chivalry. As a military system 
it was being replaced by royal and ducal forces based on 
mercenary men-at-arms. As a political influence it was being 
replaced by royal and princely rulers served by clerical or 
even bourgeois officials. These latter had, for the prince, the 
great advantage that they could count, keep records, and 
were literate, and yet had no independent military power 
of their own. Even as a social group, the feudal nobility were 
being challenged by persons of other origins, such as royal 
officials, clerical leaders, and wealthy bourgeoisie. The 
nobility had no desire to continue the process of change that 
had brought them to this situation, but they were in no 
position to stop continued development. 

One of the chief consequences of these economic changes 
was the advent of a money economy. As a result of this, all 
relationships in society developed a tendency to become 
expressed in monetary terms. This was true of the relation- 
ships that each noble lord had with his vassals in the feudal 
system and with his serfs in the manorial system. The aid 
and counsel owed by the vassal in the former case, as well 

362- The Evolution of Civilizations 

as the dues and services owed by the serf in the latter, were, 
sooner or later, transformed from obligations to pay in kind 
to obligations to pay in money. 

Each change was made at the going rate of value, so that 
the nobles ceased to have fixed incomes in kind and began to 
have fixed incomes in money. But the steady rise in prices 
up to 1300 meant that the value of fixed-money incomes 
was steadily reduced; every year a fixed income would buy 
less. This rise in prices and equivalent fall in the value of 
money occurred because both the amount of money in 
circulation and the speed with which it circulated increased 
faster than the increase in the volume of goods available 
(although this was also increasing). 

The reduction of noble incomes by the decreasing value 
of money meant that less could be saved from these in- 
comes. Thus there was less and less available for investment. 
If we consider that the price level was about three times as 
high in 1300 as it had been at the end of the tenth century, 
we shall see that a noble who commuted his income into 
money at the earlier date would have only one-third as much 
real income at the later date. No one, of course, was quite 
this badly off, for the simple reason that no one commuted 
as early as the tenth century, and the later the commutation 
the less the loss, but by the end of the thirteenth century 
most nobles were being reduced to desperation. This situa- 
tion was made even worse by the fact that the institutionali- 
zation of the nobility led to customary and legal restrictions 
on their activities that made it very difficult for them to 
supplement their decreasing real incomes. On the Continent 
generally (but not in England), they were forbidden to en- 
gage in commerce or to marry nonnoble girls. These restric- 
tions made it impossible for the nobility to obtain access 

Western Civilization *363 

to incomes from the commercial class (as was done in En- 
gland, where there were a peerage and an aristocracy but no 

The result of all these noble misfortunes was that the only 
feasible way in which a noble could supplement his income 
was as a mercenary soldier or, possibly, as a royal bureau- 
crat. The latter was unlikely because writing and counting 
were not noble skills. Thus a noble was inclined to seek to 
supplement his income from war. This need became the 
basis for the imperialist wars of the Age of Conflict that 
began at the end of the thirteenth century. English wars 
against the Scots, Welsh, Irish, and French; French wars 
with the English, Burgundians, and others; the almost end- 
less struggles among the princes, both lay and clerical, of 
Italy and Germany; all these, as well as civil struggles such 
as the Wars of the Roses, the struggles of the Armagnacs, 
or the Sicilian Vespers, helped to provide jobs for the 
impoverished feudal nobility. 

The economic crisis that emerged from the decrease of 
feudal spending was delayed only briefly by the continuance 
of saving and investment by commercial groups. The eco- 
nomic life of the towns, including both commercial and 
crop activities, became institutionalized in the fourteenth 
century largely by the activities of the guilds. As demand 
ceased to grow, these adopted restrictive regulations, pre- 
venting admission of new workers to most activities and, 
under the pretext of protecting the quality of the products, 
curtailed output and increased prices. At the same time 
towns placed all kinds of restrictions (generally known as 
municipal mercantilism) on business activities. These in- 
cluded restricting commercial exchange to set times and 
places (the market), putting restrictions on nontownspeople 

364- | The Evolution of Civilizations 

in the town market, forbidding purchases for later sale in 
the same market, hampering or taxing export of goods from 
the town, and so forth. All such regulations, embodying 
what is technically called "a policy of provision," had a 
very adverse influence on technological advance for most 
of the fourteenth century. 

The decrease in expansion arising from the growth of eco- 
nomic institutionalization was accelerated by a number of 
other factors. One of these was a fall of prices after 1300, 
accompanied, within a half-century, by a scarcity of labor. 
The fall of prices probably began with the decrease in de- 
mand arising from institutionalization, but it was greatly 
accelerated by the scarcity of bullion. By the year 1300 the 
accessible silver mines and scanty gold resources of Europe 
had been systematically exploited for about four centuries 
and most of the easily obtained bullion had been extracted. 
Mines were becoming exhausted or were going deeper than 
could be operated easily by the available technology. The 
problem of keeping water out of the deeper mines was 
rapidly becoming insoluble. The ordinary lift pumps known 
at the time would not take water higher than about thirty 
feet, since they worked by air pressure, so that depths greater 
than this had to be pumped out in multiple stages. Problems 
of ventilation and of removing ores were also rising rapidly. 
As a consequence, after about 1320 the annual increase in 
the bullion supply and thus the increase in the volume of 
money were less than the increase in production of goods, 
and the long rise in prices was reversed. Costs, particularly 
wages, did not fall so rapidly as prices, with the result that 
profit margins (price minus costs) were reduced or wiped 
out completely. This discouraged production. The situation 

Western Civilization -365 

was alleviated for a short time just at the middle of the 
fourteenth century because the outbreak of the Hundred 
Years' War in 1338 helped to strengthen prices, but profit 
margins hardly benefited at all, because the shortage of 
labor resulting from the onslaughts of the Black Death after 
1348 raised wages. Even today, when wages constitute a 
smaller portion of total costs, nothing will curtail production 
faster or more completely than rising wages in a time of fall- 
ing prices. One rather paradoxical consequence of this 
situation was that incomes were distributed somewhat more 
equitably, and the standards of living of the poorer groups 
frequently improved in spite of the general economic de- 
cline. This meant that aggregate incomes, as a whole, were 
decreasing, but the share of the total income going to the 
working people was rising and the share of the upper classes 
was falling quite rapidly. As a consequence of this, both 
saving and investment (which were upper-class activities) 
decreased even more rapidly, and the depression worsened. 
This economic and social crisis of the fourteenth and early 
fifteenth centuries is well documented in the historical rec- 
ords. Josiah C. Russell tells us that the British population 
was 1.1 million in 1086 and rose very rapidly until about 
1240, then increased more slowly during the next century 
and achieved a peak of about 3.7 million in 1348; it then 
decreased to 2.23 million by 1377 and to 2.1 million in the 
early fifteenth century and was still at no more than 3.2 
million in 1545. M. M. Postan tells us that all the towns of 
England, except Bristol and London, lost population from 
the fourteenth century to the fifteenth century. A similar 
pattern was being experienced on the Continent. E. Baratier 
and F. Raynaud report the population of Marseilles fell by 

366 • The Evolution of Civilizations 

at least 75 percent in the period 1263 to 1423. Similar 
trends have been reported from most of western and central 
Europe. C. M. Cipolla says that the crises of the early 
decades of the fourteenth century were comparable in their 
gravity to those that struck the modern world in 1929- 
35. In his study of Italian businessmen, Y. Renouard says 
that economic enterprise was replaced by warfare after 
1330 as the accepted method for making one's fortune. An 
old work of R. Davidsohn's gives us fairly specific figures for 
the manufacture of woolen cloth in Florence in the four- 
teenth century: 100,000 pieces in 1309, only 70,000 in 
1339, falling to 30,000 in 1373, and reaching 19,000 in 

Various explanations have been offered for these mis- 
fortunes, such as the plague, growing public disorder, in- 
creased religious controversy, and others, but, however 
these factors may have acted and reacted on one another, 
there can be no doubt that by the year 1380 Europe was in 
the kind of crisis we call an Age of Conflict. 
Naturally there were growing class conflicts as part of 
these crises. In England we have the plaints of Langland 
and uprisings led by men like Wat Tyler and John Ball; in 
the Low Countries we find many similar disturbances even 
earlier (especially 1323-28); in France occurred the revolts 
of the Jacquerie and other disorders; while in Germany (as 
a semiperipheral area) these outbursts came somewhat later, 
culminating in the Peasants' revolts of 1524. 
All these hardships and disorders led to a growth of 
irrationality, one of the most typical examples of this to be 
found in any Age of Conflict. All kinds of irrational heresies, 
like the Flagellants or the Beguines, became rampant in 
Europe; witchcraft, astrology, even devil worship, dances of 

Western Civilization «367 

death, necromancy, and all degrees of despair and emotional 
desperation were prevalent. The tone of the age is clearly 
revealed in a man like Villon and well described by modern 
writers like Johan Huizinga or Millard Meiss. 
The geographic expansion of Christendom, which reached 
its peak with Marco Polo (1271-95), largely ceased with 
that achievement and was only resumed a century later with 
the exploits of the Portuguese in a new Age of Expansion. 

5. Second Expansion 

The debasement of Europe's material, social, and spiritual 
life which had continued for over a century and a half was 
reversed, quite suddenly, just before the middle of the fif- 
teenth century. About 1440 new life began to spring up, 
with new hopes and renewed ambitions. This new growth 
was based on the activities of a new instrument of expansion, 
commercial capitalism, a complete circumvention of the 
previous feudal organization that had originated the older 
period of expansion in the tenth century. 
This new instrument of expansion, which we call com- 
mercial capitalism, was a circumvention of feudalism, but 
it could just as well be regarded as a reform of the com- 
mercial organization of the Middle Ages. In the earlier 
period, demand, originally of feudal origin, had given rise 
to a commercial system whose symbols are Bruges, Venice, 
and Nuremberg. In the new age of expansion which began 
about 1440, the original demand came from princes and 
dynastic monarchies, and gave rise to a new commercial 
organization whose symbols are Cadiz, Antwerp, and Lon- 
don. One aspect of the change is the shift from institution- 

368 • The Evolution of Civilizations 

alized Mediterranean commerce to instrumental Atlantic 
commerce. After the original impulse (feudalism or dy- 
nastic monarchy as the case may be) both organizations 
were capitalistic and commercial. By capitalism we mean 
"an economic system motivated by the pursuit of profits 
within a price structure." Such profits can be derived either 
from the exchange of goods (as happened in commercial 
capitalism) or from the production of goods (as occurred 
in the third period of Western expansion, which began about 
1720). Either type of capitalism can become institutional- 
ized, in which case profits are sought not from exchange or 
from production of goods but from restrictions on exchange 
and restrictions on production. This restrictive capitalism 
arose because profits (which are the real motive of any 
capitalistic system) are the margin between selling prices 
and costs. As long as a capitalistic organization is an instru- 
ment, it seeks to increase profits by reducing costs rather 
than by increasing prices; but when a capitalistic system 
becomes an institution, it shifts its efforts to trying to in- 
crease profits by increasing prices. Such increases in prices 
can generally be achieved only by reducing the flow of 
goods (either by restricting exchange or by restricting pro- 
duction). An effort to make this the chief method for maxi- 
mizing profits indicates institutionalization of the 
organization. We have three different names for institution- 
alized capitalist systems which were dominant in the three 
Ages of Conflict of Western civilization. These are munici- 
pal mercantilism in the period 1270-1440, state mercantil- 
ism in the period 1690-1810, and monopoly capitalism in 
the period 1900 and after. 
The new Age of Expansion after 1440 lasted until near 

Western Civilization -369 

the end of the seventeenth century. It is very familiar to all 
students of history and is frequently called the ambiguous 
term "Renaissance." Even a neophyte in the study of history 
is aware that this period possessed the qualities we have 
listed as typical of any Age of Expansion: increased produc- 
tion, rising population, geographic expansion, growth of 
knowledge, and intermittent impulses of science and de- 
mocracy. Except for geographical expansion and science, 
all these were probably less extreme, in a quantitative sense, 
than history textbooks might lead us to believe, but I think 
there can be no doubt that they existed sufficiently to justify 
the name "expansion" for the period as a whole. The two 
most dramatic aspects of the period, however, are to be 
seen in science and in exploration and colonization. In sci- 
ence the period from Copernicus, or even Leonardo, to 
Newton is recognized as one of the most brilliant in all 
history, while in geographic expansion the age of Vasco da 
Gama or Magellan is no less famous. In both of these fields, 
and in the others as well, the period of a century or more 
after 1690 is one of much more modest achievements. Only 
in the nineteenth century, with the surge of a new Age of 
Expansion, were the achievements of the sixteenth and early 
seventeenth centuries generally exceeded. 
The successive stages of expansion and conflict that we 
are trying to distinguish in the past thousand years of the 
history of our own civilization are even less definitely de- 
marked than similar stages in other civilizations. In addition 
to certain difficulties already mentioned, such as the in- 
evitable lack of perspective occurring when we study our 
own society, there are other difficulties that arise from the 
cyclical character of these stages. Cultural lag and aberra- 

370 • The Evolution of Civilizations 

tions that emerge from the contrast between core and 
peripheral zones are especially troublesome in a civilization 
that repeats stages. 

We have already mentioned the problems that arise in 
demarking stages from the fact that such stages tend to be 
somewhat later in peripheral areas than they are in core 
areas. When stages are repeated, as in Western civilization, 
this gives rise to particular difficulties because peripheral 
areas could, in theory, fall one full stage behind the core 
area and thus mask the fluctuating process in the civilization 
as a whole. Fortunately, Western civilization did not have a 
full stage lag in its peripheral areas, but the lag was suffi- 
ciently prolonged to provide a masking influence on the 
demarcations of stages. In general, the core of Western civil- 
ization could be regarded as the northern half of Italy, 
France, the Low Countries, extreme western Germany, and 
England without its Celtic fringes. The masking effect arose 
because of continued expansion in Germany and in the New 
World after this core had already moved into the next stage. 
There can be little doubt that the shift from expansion to 
conflict that occurred in the core of Western Europe at the 
end of the thirteenth century arrived somewhat later in 
Germany. Again, when Western Europe resumed expansion 
about 1440, Germany continued in the period of conflict for 
another century. And, finally, when the second stage of ex- 
pansion reached its end in Western Europe in the late seven- 
teenth century, it continued in Germany and in Mexico for 
several generations more. On the other hand, about 1840, 
when England, France, and, above all, Belgium were ex- 
panding vigorously in the third occurrence of expansion of 
Western civilization, Germany and Mexico were just about 
to resume expansion. 

Western Civilization • 371 

The masking effect between stages to which we refer was 
intensified by cultural lag. This means that in any single 
area, be it core or not, all aspects of the society do not start, 
stop, or proceed at the same times and rates. In general, 
change or innovation was earlier in the military and eco- 
nomic aspects than it was in the political, social, legal, or 
intellectual aspects. This can be seen quite clearly in the 
early sixteenth century and again in the late eighteenth 

The last imperialist war of the first Age of Conflict was 
the series of struggles called the Italian Wars (1494-1559). 
These began with an excuse rather than a cause, just as the 
earlier Hundred Years' War (1338-1445) had done. The 
cause of both of these was the need for the institutionalized 
feudal system to wage war in order to make a living. In other 
words war had become an end in itself, as is usually the case 
with any institution. The excuse given in 1338 for the En- 
glish invasion of France, like the excuse given in 1494 for 
Charles VIII's invasion of Italy, was no more than that — 
just an excuse — a flimsy dynastic claim to a distant throne. 
But in each case hordes of unemployed nobles were eager 
to support such a claim, no matter how flimsy, for the sake 
of booty and payment for military service. 
The first imperialist wars of the new Age of Conflict were 
the wars of Louis XIV, which began in 1667 and which con- 
tinued, with interruptions, until after Waterloo in 1815. The 
excuses that Louis XIV gave for his wars were just about as 
flimsy as those which had been offered in 1338 and 1494 in 
the earlier Ages of Conflict, and were repeated in the last 
of these wars by Napoleon. 

As far as our analysis goes, the Italian Wars of 1494- 
1559 should have been followed by a period of peace such 

372 • The Evolution of Civilizations 

as followed the Napoleonic Wars of 1803-15, since, in 
each case, a new period of expansion had begun. Let us note 
that expansion had fully begun even before these last im- 
perialist wars commenced, since the second Age of Expan- 
sion began about 1440 and the third began about 1730. This 
was simply a result of cultural lag, and reflected a situation 
where older institutions continued to work for a war that 
newer instrumental developments had made unnecessary 
and unrewarding. A similar and parallel situation may be 
existing now, at the middle of the twentieth century, if we 
are endangered by imperialist war at a time when new in- 
struments and techniques of peaceful expansion have al- 
ready begun to function. 

In the period 1815-1914, of course, there was an absence 
of imperialist war, and Europe was generally concentrating 
its resources and energies on expansion, and did so because 
the fact of expansion, especially the new industrialism, was 
too obvious for anyone to ignore the fact that it was more 
feasible to get ahead by peaceful methods than by warlike 
ones. But in the period of expansion from 1440 to 1680 
this was not nearly so clear, chiefly because of cultural lag 
of behavior and thought patterns from the earlier Age of 

We have said that the Italian Wars began in 1494 as a 
typical imperialist aggression by the institutionalized feudal 
system. But the war changed its character after about 
twenty-five years, and became a balance-of-power struggle 
against Hapsburg hegemony. In 1494 the king of France 
was the aggressor; by 1520 the king of France was fighting 
for survival against a dynastic monster that had come into 
existence through a series of circumstances, some of them 
accidental, which had made the Hapsburgs the overwhelm- 

Western Civilization -373 

ing power in Europe. Among these circumstances were the 
family arrangements that accumulated by inheritance a large 
number of important dynastic claims in the hands of Charles 
V of the Holy Roman Empire. Of almost equal importance 
was the accidental circumstance that the same Hapsburgs, 
as rulers of Mexico and Peru, were able to tap the immense 
resources of bullion of America at a time when the existence 
of mercenary armies made money equivalent to soldiers and 
thus to power. 

The influx of American bullion that made the Hapsburgs 
a great military and political power without an economic or 
social system capable of supporting a hegemony of Europe 
had several results. By raising prices rapidly it completed 
the ruin of the older nobility and any other persons on fixed 
incomes. At the same time this price inflation gave a great 
spur to economic (especially commercial) expansion and to 
the growth in wealth and influence of the bourgeoisie and 
richer peasants. Moreover, the revelation that the possession 
of money could make a dynasty powerful even without a 
sound economic and social system to support it fastened the 
mercantilist system, in a broader, more exploitative, way 
upon Europe. Political power supported by mercenary sol- 
diers was used to regulate economic activities so that a 
favorable balance of trade would bring in sufficient money 
to hire mercenary soldiers and thus expand a dynasty's 
ability to control more taxpayers, get access to larger num- 
bers of mercenary recruits, and to increase the favorable 
balance of payments. 

These obsolescent ideas, which continued as a cultural 
lag during the course of the new, second Age of Expansion, 
ensured a continuance of imperialist wars even in the period 
of expansion. The struggle against Hapsburg hegemony that 

374 The Evolution of Civilizations 

began after 1519 was ended with the Hapsburg political de- 
feat in the Thirty Years' War (1618-48); the struggle 
against French hegemony in Europe that began in 1667 
continued until 1815. But the interval between these two 
struggles, which should have been a period of peace, was 
not, because of economic struggles, such as the three Anglo- 
Dutch Wars, which were justified by institutionalized mer- 
cantilist ideologies. 

Moreover, only local and sporadic movements toward 
democracy appeared in this period of expansion because 
the organization of military force and of political power 
was not such as to permit democracy to function. The Italian 
Wars of 1494-1559 were like a caldron in which a great 
variety of military ideas and tactics were thrown together 
and tested. Among these were the old mounted knight, the 
new infantry of English crossbowmen or Swiss pikemen, the 
even newer infantry of arquebusiers, the light cavalry 
(reiter) armed with "horse pistols," primitive artillery, and 
even a Spanish revival of the Roman legionary. From the 
competition of these various arms there emerged by 1559 a 
tactical combination of pike and arquebus that held the field 
for over two centuries. In this combination the pikemen 
defended the arquebusiers against charging horsemen, while 
the arquebusiers defended the pikemen against forearms. 
At first, slowness of reloading, which left arquebusiers in 
jeopardy from cavalry for long intervals, required a high 
ratio of pikemen in the unit, but the slow increase in rate of 
firing and the invention of the ring bayonet (which made 
each musketeer able "to act as his own pikeman") in 1690 
led to the reduction and eventual elimination of pikes. But 
the use of muskets, either with pikes or bayonets for defense 
against cavalry, supplemented by artillery, remained a 

Western Civilization '375 

skilled task as long as guns remained muzzle-loading, 
spark-ignited weapons. Such skill could be obtained only 
from professional mercenary soldiers in the relatively small 
numbers that could be paid by dynastic monarchies in the 
mercantilist period. In this period this organizational feature 
of small, professional mercenary armies was reinforced by 
the fact that arms were handmade on a piece-by-piece basis 
and were thus too expensive for the average private citizen 
to obtain or for the public fisc to purchase on a mass basis. 
Accordingly, it is not surprising that political power re- 
mained concentrated in a narrow group who controlled this 
limited supply of weapons and did not spread to that ma- 
jority who were relatively isolated from war and weapons 
and thus had no basis on which to establish any claims for 
participation in governmental functions. 

This narrow basis for military activity in the sixteenth, 
seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries fully sustains the 
narrow distribution of political power in the same period. 
Accordingly, it became relatively easy for the vested interest 
groups to defend the status quo and to prevent structural 
changes when the new period of crisis began at the end of 
the seventeenth century. 

6. Second Age of Conflict 

The second period of expansion in Western civilization 
was transformed into a second Age of Conflict when the 
instrument of expansion became an institution. The two 
phases of this organization are generally called commercial 
capitalism and state mercantilism. The preceding period of 
mercantilism, which we called municipal mercantilism, 

376- The Evolution of Civilizations 

generally had been regulated by municipal political units 
rather than by the wider monarchical political units of the 
eighteenth century; it had been dominated by the interests 
of the consumer and had reflected this concern in a "policy 
of provision" that put restrictions on exports but not on 
imports, and tried to regulate craft activities to protect 
quality. By 1400 this policy had become very restrictive. 
The second phase of mercantilism was organized on a differ- 
ent basis with different aims, since it was generally regulated 
by dynastic monarchies and generally sought to protect the 
interests of commercial groups. As such, it had no interest in 
restricting either imports or exports, but rather sought to 
make goods go through the territory so that fees of handling 
and the profits of exchange could be ensured to the citizens. 
This is frequently called "the policy of the staple," and con- 
trasts both with the "policy of provision" of the first Age of 
Conflict and with the "policy of protection" of the third Age 
of Conflict (that associated with monopoly capitalism after 
1900). These three policies represent the interests of three 
different aspects of the economic system. Any economic 
system must provide production, distribution, and consump- 
tion. Each of the three Ages of Conflict of Western civiliza- 
tion sought to protect the vested interests of one of these 
aspects, but in the reverse order so that the consumer 
was dominant in the first period (about 1400), the trader 
was dominant in the second (about 1750), and the pro- 
ducer was dominant in the third (about 1930). Any effort to 
make means into ends or to make one section or aspect of a 
process the dominant interest of the whole process is a clear 
indication of institutionalization. 

This process of institutionalization can be seen as a kind 
of general stagnation of Western civilization during most of 

Western Civilization '377 

the century from 1650 to 1750. The geographic expansion 
that had spread in such a phenomenal way in the period 
1450 to 1650 began to hesitate. In North America the 
colonies remained east of the Appalachians or, in some 
areas, below the fall line; in South America the incredible 
explorations of the earlier period, which, for example, had 
seen the continent crossed from west to east by way of the 
Amazon, were not repeated until the nineteenth century. In 
the history of Africa we find a similar situation. In most 
areas of the Dark Continent there were widespread explora- 
tions and missionary activities, even a transcontinental 
journey, in the sixteenth century, but then nothing similar 
occurred again until the nineteenth century. Expansion into 
India and the Far East shows a similar, but less drastic, 

The same cycle can be seen in legislation, which devoted 
itself, after about 1650, to the defense of the status quo or 
to the effort, by political action, to obtain a larger share 
for oneself of what was regarded as a static and unexpand- 
able body of the world's wealth. This can be seen in the 
navigation acts that the English colonies in America so 
resented in the period after 1765 but that were first enacted 
after 1649. These acts sought to prevent economic innova- 
tions in the colonies and to force their trade and commodi- 
ties to go through England and English hands whatever 
their ultimate destination. At the same time, within England, 
technical innovation was discouraged, work became an end 
in itself, and laws were made to preserve existing markets 
as they stood. In a semistatistical study, Change and History, 
published in 1952, Margaret T. Hodgen found three periods 
of technical innovation in Western history. These were the 
eleventh century to the fourteenth century, the sixteenth 

378 The Evolution of Civilizations 

century, and the nineteenth century. Governments did all 
they could to discourage such innovation in the late seven- 
teenth century in contrast to the late sixteenth when they 
still sought to reward it. In England the patent power was 
used to prevent new techniques rather than to encourage 
them. As early as 1623 the Privy Council ordered destruc- 
tion of a machine for making needles; cloth buttons (rather 
than bone) were forbidden in 1698, while Indian calico was 
forbidden in 1686. A law of 1666 ordered all persons to be 
buried in wool rather than in the traditional linen. Every 
effort was made to prevent new techniques in the textile 
industry and thus, in effect, to hamper the growth of cotton 
textiles. In France these efforts culminated in the crafts 
codes of Jean-Bap tiste Colbert. Issued in seven volumes of 
2,200 pages over the period 1666-1730, these sought to 
prescribe every detail of the established craft techniques and 
to proscribe innovations in these. Economic aims and eco- 
nomic values were distorted and frequently reversed so that 
consumption was condemned as an evil, abundance ab- 
horred, work praised as an end in itself, exporting encour- 
aged, and poverty regarded as a good because it was the only 
way to keep people working. The esteemed Sir William Petty 
(1662) believed that a country could get richer and richer 
by exporting more and more and that it would be a good 
thing "if the products of the labor of a thousand men could 
be burned" since these men could then keep their skills by 
having to make the goods over again. Charles Davenant in 
1698 wrote. "By what is consumed at home one loseth only 
what another gets and the nation in general is not all the 
richer, but all foreign consumption is a clear and certain 
profit." More briefly in 1673 Becker wrote, "All selling is 
good, all buying bad," while in 1677 John Houghton drew 

Western Civilization '379 

a logical conclusion from these ideas by suggesting that 
England could get richer by inviting foreigners to come in to 
"consume our corn, cattle, cloths, coals, and other things." 
It was suggested that an enemy in wartime could be greatly 
weakened if he could be flooded with goods and, as late as 
1810, that last great mercantilist, Napoleon, issued licenses 
to smugglers to carry goods into England secretly. De 
Mandeville praised vice because it was unproductive, while 
Defoe praised a law forbidding a more efficient canalboat 
able to do the same work with fewer men. 
It can hardly be expected that ideas and statements such 
as these could be fitted together to provide any self-con- 
sistent and convincing economic theory, but even as they 
stand they reveal a determination to defend isolated vested 
interests such as prevail in a period of institutionalized or- 

As might be expected in such a period, the century 1650- 
1750 was one of imperialist wars, of class conflicts, of 
flattening population expansion, of softening prices, and of 
irrational confusions. Of these the class conflicts and im- 
perialist wars continued until 1815, although a new Age of 
Expansion had begun as early as 1730. Napoleon was the 
culmination of this Age of Conflict, seeking to establish a 
universal empire (and almost succeeding in the core area 
by 1811), seeking to enforce his mercantilist conceptions 
with the full authority of his imperial system, and quite con- 
vinced that he was living in a limited world in which one 
share could be increased only if another were curtailed. 
In these wars Napoleon was fighting "the wave of the 
future" with the methods of the past. This can be seen quite 
clearly if we merely look at four or five aspects of the new 
nineteenth century of expansion. 

380' The Evolution of Civilizations 

In financial matters one of the great problems of Western 
civilization from the earliest period had been fluctuations 
and, above all, limitations on the volume of money. So 
long as money was in the form of specie there could be no 
close correlation between the volume of money available 
and the economic need for money as a medium of savings 
and exchange. The volume of money was strictly related 
to the supply of bullion except for minor influences (like 
hoarding, flows of specie to India and the East, and 
such), but this supply was in no way related to economic 
needs. We have seen that the supply increased too rapidly 
in the three centuries 1000-1300, then increased far too 
slowly (because of exhaustion of existing mines within the 
framework of the existing technology) for the next century 
and a half (1300-1450), then was expanded in a spectacu- 
lar and accidental way, quite out of relationship to economic 
need, by Spanish access to the bullion stores of Mexico and 
Peru (1450-1650), but that the diffusion of these stores 
left the economy of Western civilization on an inflated price 
level that could not be sustained by any continued increase 
in bullion supplies. Thus, by the late seventeenth century 
and much of the eighteenth century, the flow of bullion was 
not sufficient to satisfy either the demands of an expanding 
economic system or those of a mercantilist political system 
supported by a mercenary military system. This inadequacy 
began to be remedied at the very end of the seventeenth 
century, notably by the establishment of the Bank of England 
in 1694. This remedy rested on the use of banknotes backed 
to only a fractional part of their value by specie reserves. 
This was a partial solution of the problem of money for 
two reasons: (1) it permitted a great increase in the volume 
of money when the supply of bullion was increasingly in- 

Western Civilization • 381 

adequate and (2) it permitted the volume of money to 
fluctuate to some extent in response to changing needs for 
money in the economy. 

This new technique of monetary manipulation became 
one of the basic factors in the great Age of Expansion in the 
nineteenth century and made the fluctuations of economic 
activity less responsive to the rate of bullion production from 
mines, by making it more responsive to new factors reflect- 
ing the demand for money (such as the interest rate). This 
new technique spread relatively slowly in the century be- 
tween the founding of the Bank of England and Napoleon's 
creation of the Bank of France in 1803. The Napoleonic 
Wars, because of the backward, specie-based, financial ideas 
of Napoleon were, on their fiscal side, a struggle between 
the older, bullionist, obsolete system favored by Napoleon 
and the new fractional-reserve banknote system of England. 
A similar situation existed in regard to food production. 
No very impressive economic expansion was possible in the 
eighteenth century without some new agricultural tech- 
niques capable of increasing the output of food. No such 
increase could be expected so long as the medieval three- 
field system with its unenclosed scattered strips and free- 
ranging farm animals continued. This medieval system had 
been a great success in its day, greatly superior to the old 
classical two-field, slave system, and capable of supporting 
the new Western civilization through its first two Ages of 
Expansion, but by 1650 its output per man-day of work 
was not sufficient to support any notable increase of the 
proportion of the population in crafts and trade, and it was, 
of course, quite incapable of providing the food or raw 
materials for industrialism. 
This medieval organization of agriculture was fully insti- 

382 • The Evolution of Civilizations 

tutionalized by 1650 and had become a great obstacle to 
continued expansion. Just at that point, however, there be- 
came available in western Europe the elements of a new 
agrarian system fully capable of supporting a new period 
of expansion and destined to do so in the nineteenth cen- 

The new organization of agriculture is usually known as 
the agricultural revolution. In essence it abandoned the 
three-field system for a leguminous-rotation system in which 
a leguminous crop was put in place of the fallow stage in 
the older three-stage cycle. Such a leguminous crop (like 
alfalfa or clover) put much more nitrogen in the field than 
any fallow year ever could, but it required a major re- 
organization in livestock handling. Animals had to be fenced 
in rather than fenced out of the arable field as in the older 
system, because the fallow and, to a lesser degree, the stub- 
ble, on which medieval livestock had foraged, were gone. 
Fencing in of animals (or enclosure) had three important 
results: (1) selective breeding could be practiced, with a 
great improvement in the quality of farm animals; (2) ani- 
mal manure was now available in quantity to be used where 
its fertility was most needed; and (3) feed had to be supplied 
to the animals, thus providing a use for the leguminous crop 
that had been put into the fallow stage of the older cycle. 
There was thus a drastic increase in size, quality, and num- 
bers of farm animals as a consequence of the agricultural 
revolution. As an index of this we might note that the 
slaughter weights of farm animals tripled at Smithfield 
Market in England during the eighty-five-year period end- 
ing in 1795. 

The agricultural revolution did not cease with the factors 
we have mentioned, but included a number of other signifi- 

Western Civilization '383 

cant items. Enclosure ejected a considerable number of sub- 
sistence peasants from the agrarian system and led to larger 
holdings and some degree of rural depopulation, thus pro- 
viding manpower for increased commerce and industry. It 
also made possible numerous other technical advances, 
many of them associated with the ideas of rural eccentrics 
like Jethro Tull (1711). These included planting of seed 
in rows, in holes in the ground, by use of a seed drill instead 
of broadcast surface sowing as in the Middle Ages. This 
encouraged seed selection and the use of horse-drawn culti- 

The agricultural revolution was the basis of the new Age 
of Expansion that began in England about 1730 but that 
had not yet reached France a generation later. This fact was 
perfectly clear to Arthur Young when he traveled in France 
just before the French Revolution. As a consequence the 
Napoleonic Wars were, from this point of view, a conflict 
between the older three-field fallow system and the newer 
enclosed leguminous rotation systems (frequently called, in 
France and elsewhere, the "Norfolk System"). 
There was also a third important element in this situation. 
This was the shift from a craft system of manufacture to an 
industrial system. The vital point about this shift is not so 
much the growth of the factory system or the growth of an 
urban proletariat that did not own the tools it used, as 
the shift from an economy in which production was achieved 
by energy released in living bodies (man- or animal-power) 
to one in which production was achieved by energy released 
through nonliving mechanisms (water power or steam en- 
gines). This shift, which permitted great increases in produc- 
tion of manufactured goods, would never have been possible 
without the agricultural revolution that preceded it and 

384' The Evolution of Civilizations 

possibly without the advent of a fractional-reserve banking 
system as well. The change, which is usually called the In- 
dustrial Revolution, was in full development in England but 
was largely unknown in France during the Napoleonic Wars. 
In this regard, also, these wars represented a conflict between 
a newer organization for fulfilling human desires and an 
older, obsolescent one. 

There is a fourth way in which the Napoleonic Wars 
represented a struggle between the new and the old. On the 
Napoleonic side we find ranged all the forces of mercantil- 
ism, meaning the theories and the vested-interest forces that 
believed that economic life had to be regulated by the 
government and regulated for largely political ends. This 
system played a very significant role in Western civilization 
in the period 1200-1800, but by the latter date it was clearly 
obsolete, and had to be replaced by a more advanced system. 
This newer system of economic management is known as 
laissez-faire and, as is well known, it was associated with the 
period of expansion of the nineteenth century. What is not 
so well known, however, is what the shift from one to an- 
other really entailed. 

Every economic system has to be regulated. That is, 
somehow, decisions must be made as to what is produced, 
how much of it, and who gets it. In the early Middle Ages 
and again in the late nineteenth century, the European 
system of management was an unregulated, automatic one. 
That is, no centralized decision making occurred in either. 
But the two were entirely dissimilar in the ways that this 
came about. In the medieval system, economic regulation 
was automatic through medieval custom: what was pro- 
duced, how much, and who got it were established on the 

Western Civilization -385 

basis of what had been done at an earlier date. Custom 

In the nineteenth century, once again, Europe had an 
automatic management of economic life, but now it was a 
dynamic economic system, not the static one of the earlier 
Middle Ages, and, as a dynamic system, it could not be 
regulated by custom. Instead, it was regulated by the market. 
The market is a place where buyers and sellers come to- 
gether to exchange their goods. In an automatic laissez-faire 
market numerous sellers compete with each other, thus 
forcing prices downward, while simultaneously numerous 
buyers compete with each other, thus forcing prices upward, 
and, finally, during all this, buyers "higgle" with sellers. As 
a consequence of these three forces operating in the market, 
a price is reached at which goods are exchanged for money 
in terms that will clear the market of both. 
Such a market mechanism is fully capable, as we all 
know, of determining, without centralized control, what will 
be produced, how much will be made, and who will get it. 
But no laissez-faire system can do this unless a market exists, 
and no such market can exist unless both transportation and 
communications are so highly developed and so free that 
people know what is going on and both goods and money 
are free to move where each is more valuable. Neither 
transportation nor communications were adequate to this 
purpose when the customary system of the static medieval 
economy began to break down from the introduction of 
dynamic economic influences about the year 1000. Thus 
there was no market in the year 1000, and there was still no 
market, although a myriad of small markets, in 1700. These 
small markets existed from the inadequacy of both transpor- 

386 The Evolution of Civilizations 

tation and communication, and were "small" in the sense 
that the numbers of buyers and the numbers of sellers in each 
market were too small to prevent monopolistic or oligopo- 
listic prices and to achieve competitive prices. To prevent 
this and to protect the consumer from exploitation, munici- 
pal mercantilism grew up and dominated economic regula- 
tion during the period 1200-1500 approximately. 
As improvements in transportation and communications 
appeared in the period of medieval expansion, there was a 
tendency for the numerous small markets regulated by 
municipal mercantilism to flow together to create fewer and 
larger markets. These larger markets, drawing from areas 
larger than the areas of municipal control and similarly 
supplying goods to larger areas, could not be controlled by 
municipal authorities. Still, these authorities continued to 
attempt to do what was technically beyond their powers to 
do. These efforts, aiming at the defense of established vested 
interests rather than at the protection of consumers as orig- 
inally intended, are part of the institutionalized structure of 
the first Age of Conflict. 

As a consequence of the inability of municipal authorities 
to regulate the newer, larger markets created by improved 
transportation and communications, this task was taken 
over by the emerging dynastic monarchies. We have already 
shown how changes in weapons, political organization, and 
political ideology had created these newer political struc- 
tures with power to regulate economic life over larger areas. 
This newer economic regulation by dynastic monarchies is 
known as state mercantilism. It aimed to protect traders 
rather than consumers or producers. Much of the expansion 
of the second period of expansion arose from its efforts. 
By the eighteenth century, state mercantilism had be- 

Western Civilization • 387 

come in its turn a structure of vested interests serving to 
hamper economic life rather than to help it. This was as true 
of traders as it was of consumers and producers. This 
shift of state mercantilism from an instrument to an 
institution was based on two chief features. On one hand the 
organization was no longer used for an economic purpose 
but had become an end in itself with largely political pur- 
poses. It was used to increase state power rather than for 
economic life. On the other hand, by the late eighteenth 
century, transportation and communication were again 
beginning to improve so rapidly that continental and even 
world markets were coming into existence. These were, of 
course, much wider than the areas of power of the dynastic 
monarchies and, accordingly, could not be controlled by 
them. The continued efforts of governments to exercise such 
control in the portions of markets that fell in their respective 
power areas merely served to create restrictions on eco- 
nomic life and hampered production, exchange, and con- 
sumption alike. This situation was shown by Adam Smith 
in his book The Wealth of Nations in 1776. Clearly markets 
were now large enough to be regulated by supply and de- 
mand, by competition and higgling, and any movement to 
allow this would be economically progressive. From this 
point of view, also, the Napoleonic Wars represented a 
struggle between an older and a younger system. 
Thus from four points of view concerned with finance, 
agriculture, manufacturing, and economic regulation, the 
political struggles between England and France in the Na- 
poleonic period reflect a contest between the future and the 
past. There are, of course, numerous other factors involved 
in this contrast. Some of these will be mentioned in the next 
section, but these four should be sufficient to show that 

388- The Evolution of Civilizations 

Napoleon represented an outmoded system and that he was 
the last phase of a fairly typical Age of Conflict. 
The other marks of such an Age of Conflict, with one 
notable exception, are fairly obvious or have been men- 
tioned already. The exception is in intellectual history, 
where an Age of Conflict usually is a period of irrationality. 
This is, of course, not a term that could be applied to the 
eighteenth century where the more usual label (at least for 
the generation 1730-90) is "Enlightenment." This dis- 
crepancy is but one indication of a situation that is far too 
complex to be discussed here; namely, that the periodization 
of intellectual history is quite different from the periodiza- 
tion of other aspects of society. In these other aspects we 
can distinguish five successive stages on each level over the 
period from a.d. 950 into the future, but on the intellectual 
level, as shown in the chart (page 389), we have at least 
nine stages over the same time. To some extent this can be 
explained by cultural lag, but there are other influences quite 
as significant, including the much weaker degree of integra- 
tion between one theory and another, even at the same time, 
or between a theory and any other aspect of the society, 
than exists between the more concrete aspects of culture. 
At any period it is possible for a thinker either to accept 
a theory which is morphologically compatible with his age 
or to reject it. In such cases the ideology of the age must be 
sought in the generally unstated assumptions made both by 
conformists and nonconformists. In the eighteenth century 
the Enlightenment was nonconformist to the other levels of 
the society, and this is, indeed, one of the chief causes of the 
French Revolution. The rational, orderly, organized quali- 
ties of the Enlightenment were quite incompatible with the 
irrational, disorderly, and disorganized society of the day, 

Western Civilization 


390 • The Evolution of Civilizations 

and thus gave rise to tensions that, reinforced from other 
directions, provided the energy motivating the French Rev- 
olution. The irrationality to be associated with the second 
Age of Conflict might be sought either in the intellectual 
stage that preceded the Enlightenment or with the romantic 
movement that followed it. In the former case it would be 
associated with such items as the political theory of Hobbes 
and with Jansenism, while in the latter case it would be 
associated with the literary movements that began with 
Richardson or Macpherson's Ossian and developed into 
Rousseau, Sturm und Drang, Wordsworth, and others, or 
with the political theories of men like Burke, Fichte, Bonald, 
or DeMaistre, and the religious movements represented by 
Methodism. On the whole, it seems preferable, without being 
dogmatic, to associate the latter intellectual stage with the 
irrationalism we expect from an Age of Conflict. But, at any 
rate, the subject is too complicated to be discussed in any 
satisfactory way here. 

7. Third Age of Expansion 

The third Age of Expansion lasted from about 1730 to 
about 1929, although indications of a new Age of Conflict 
began to appear as early as 1890. Its instrument of expan- 
sion remained capitalistic, but operating in fields other than 
those that had become institutionalized in the earlier Age 
of Conflict of the late seventeenth century. The reappearance 
of expansion clearly resulted from circumvention of this 
previous organization. Again the period of expansion can 
be divided into substages that make the process of expansion 

Western Civilization '391 

appear as a series of steps or surges. We might list these 
steps as follows: (1) the agricultural revolution from 1730; 
(2) the Industrial Revolution from 1770; (3) financial 
capitalism from 1850; and (4) monopoly capitalism from 
1900. Naturally the dates listed are very rough, because the 
advent of these steps is quite different in various areas. 
We have already indicated the nature of the agricultural 
revolution as a reform of the institutionalized medieval 
three-field fallow system. Its roots go back many genera- 
tions, but it began to operate as a significant, expansive force 
in England about 1730. It is, of course, one of the most 
important events in modern history. 

Two revolutionary events of the later eighteenth century 
contributed a good deal toward the new Age of Expansion. 
These were the transportation revolution, which began 
about 1750, and the population revolution, which began 
about a generation later. The transportation revolution con- 
sisted of a series of innovations that provided (a) an effec- 
tive traveling coach; (b) hard- surfaced, all-weather roads; 
(c) canals; (d) telegraphic communication; and (e) rail- 
roads. All these appeared in the century 1750-1850. In the 
following century the revolution in transportation and com- 
munciations continued with the advent of (f) high-speed 
printing presses; (g) the internal-combustion engine, lead- 
ing to automobiles and airplanes; and (h) electricity, lead- 
ing to radio, the motion picture, and television. 
The population revolution began about 1780 with the 
use of vaccination for smallpox. It continued with the dis- 
covery of germ infection and the invention of antiseptics by 
Pasteur and Lister, as well as improvements in surgery such 
as the discovery of ether. Advances of this kind have con- 

392 The Evolution of Civilizations 

tinued with accelerating rapidity and have given rise to a 
population "explosion" resulting from a drastic reduction in 
death rates far sharper than the slight decreases in birthrates. 
The transportation and population revolutions occurred 
most conveniently between the agricultural and Industrial 
revolutions in Western civilization, each of the four provid- 
ing a sound basis for the next. This was quite different from 
the experience of the non-Western world where these, and 
other, revolutionary advances diffused in a quite different 
sequence that was far better fitted to raising problems than 
to solving them. 

The Industrial Revolution, which we have defined as 
production by energy coming through nonliving mechanisms 
(that is, from water power or steam rather than from men 
or animals), is familiar to all of us. Accordingly, we shall 
refer only to certain organizational features that help to 
distinguish its early period of owner-management from its 
second period of financial capitalism. In the former the 
typical pattern of organization was the private firm or part- 
nership with both capital and decision making supplied by 
the owners. In the latter the typical form of organization 
was the limited-liability corporation and the holding com- 
pany, in which capital came from the owners but decision 
making came from the management. As is well known, the 
Industrial Revolution first flourished in textiles using either 
water power or steam engines. Even when it spread into 
mining and ironmaking, the older form of proprietorship 
or partnership continued to prevail. But gradually it spread 
into the activites of the still-expanding transporation revolu- 
tion. There, in canal building and, above all, in railroad 
building, it became impossible to continue to use the part- 
nership form of business organization because the needs for 

Western Civilization 393 

capital were far greater than could be satisfied by the sav- 
ings of any group of partners. The corporate form of enter- 
prise was adopted for these activities because it could 
mobilize the savings of many in the control of a few and do 
so with limited liability for the many. First used on a large 
scale in railroads, it soon spread into coal mining, iron- 
making, and machine building. 

This change led to the period of financial capitalism that 
began about 1850 and died a violent death about September 
1931 with the collapse of the international gold standard. 
As the period developed, the need for capital by corpora- 
tions became so great that specialized capital-raising orga- 
nizations appeared. These investment bankers, in return for 
their services, obtained representation on the boards of 
directors of corporations and sufficient influence to direct 
their companies' financial services and purchases toward 
other corporations where the particular investment bankers 
concerned had interests. From this there grew up a network 
of interlocking directorships and banking influences and, 
finally, an elaborate system of holding companies and finan- 
cial firms. These growing monopolistic influences were cen- 
tralized by the joint concern which all financiers had in 
keeping the value of money high (or "stabilized," as they 
called it). This joint concern was reflected in the appearance 
of a joint organization, the central bank, which held the 
gold reserves that became the central feature of the monetary 
system. The international gold standard became the chief 
mechanism by which the supply of money could be kept low 
and its value, accordingly, kept high. A high value of money, 
which implies a low supply of money, was chiefly advan- 
tageous to creditors, to whom obligations were owed in 
money terms. But such a high value of money clearly meant 

394 The Evolution of Civilizations 

low prices of goods, and was a disadvantage to debtors and 
to manufacturers of goods. 

Thus there appeared a dichotomy between bankers and 
industrialists, with one eager for a high value of money and 
high interests rates, while the other was eager for high 
prices of goods (thus low value of money) and low interest 
rates. For a long time the dichotomy between the two did 
not come into the open because bankers succeeded in be- 
fuddling industrialists on financial matters, presenting them 
as abstruse subjects in which the industrialist's wisest course 
would be to follow his banker's advice. As long as the in- 
dustrialist was dependent upon the banker for capital, he 
had to use that advice, even when he sometimes suspected 
that the interests of the two were not identical. But few 
industrialists before Henry Ford even realized that the in- 
terests of bankers and industrialists were opposed. 
This opposition of interests between the two appeared 
most clearly when there was an insufficient supply of money 
for the growing industrial structure. This insufficient supply 
of money was based on the insufficient supply of gold, since 
the bankers controlled the supply of money through the 
mechanism of the gold standard. The bankers called the 
use of the gold standard "stabilization," and insisted that 
it provided a stable value to money; it did no such thing, 
but rather provided stable foreign exchanges (for all cur- 
rencies based on gold) and a growing value to money. The 
growing value to money on the gold standard occurred be- 
cause the supply of money could not increase as rapidly as 
the supply of goods when the former was based on output 
of the world's gold mines and the latter was based on the 
much more expandable industrial system. Accordingly, the 
overall tendency was for prices to soften during the whole 

Western Civilization *395 

period 1770-1931 except when there were sudden increases 
in the world's gold supplies (notably in 1848-52 and 1896- 
1904) or when political events, such as wars, made it neces- 
sary to suspend the gold standard or to destroy quantities 
of goods, as in 1792-1815, 1861-72 and 1914-19. Outside 
these exceptional events, the general tendency of the price 
history of the third Age of Expansion was deflationary (as 
was evident in 1816-48, 1872-96, 1920-33). This tend- 
ency led, in each deflationary substage, to growing depres- 
sion and to increasing agrarian and labor unrest associated 
with such historic labels as the "hungry forties," the "Pop- 
ulist movement," and the "great world depression." The 
tendency generally benefited bankers and injured industry 
by increasing the value of money and the costs of credit 
and making profitable industrial operations more difficult 
(since falling prices force businessmen to incur costs on an 
earlier and higher price level than that on which they must 
subsequently offer their product for sale). In these deflation- 
ary periods, as low prices drove corporations to bankruptcy, 
bankers were able to assume control of them, to consolidate 
them into larger units of monopolized industry, and to reap 
the profits of reorganization and refloatation of securities. 
Although industrialists and businessmen generally accepted 
the bankers' justifications of these events, debtors (especially 
farmers) and workers (who suffered unemployment) were 
increasingly resentful. The first deflationary period, leading 
to the disturbances of the late 1840s, and the second, lead- 
ing to the disturbances of the early 1890s, were both ended 
by the discovery of new gold supplies, in California and 
Australia in 1848-50 and in South Africa and the Klondike 
in 1897-1900. In addition, the supply of gold, in the second 
case, was increased by new methods of extracting gold from 

396- The Evolution of Civilizations 

its ores. But none of these occurred in the third deflationary 
period, 1919-31, and financial capitalism, long threatened 
by its own creation, monopoly capitalism, perished in 1931 — 
33. As a consequence, the domination of economic life by 
financial figures, such as Rothschild, Morgan, Mirabaud, 
Baring, Montagu Norman, or even Ivar Kreuger, was ended 
and replaced by great figures of monopoly capitalism like 
DuPont, Melchett, Leverhulme, Rockefeller, Ford, Nuffield, 
and others. In this connection, however, it should be pointed 
out that the typical figure of monopoly capitalism is not 
the individual "captain of industry" of the earlier period but 
the anonymously managed superfirm like United Shoe Ma- 
chinery, I. G. Farbenindustrie, Unilever, DuPont Chemicals, 
Hartford-Empire, Alcoa, Volkswagen, Pecheney, General 
Motors, General Electric, or General Dynamics. It should 
also be noted that the generally deflationary character of 
the nineteenth century had certain beneficial aspects, such 
as wider distribution of goods at lower prices and, above 
all, the drastic need to lower costs of production by greater 
productive efficiency in order to ensure continued profits in 
a soft-price era. These two aspects of the period explain 
why the nineteenth century remained an Age of Expansion 
in spite of its adjustment difficulties. 

It is not necessary to point out that the general char- 
acteristics we have posited for an Age of Expansion were 
in full flower during the nineteenth century. Geographic 
expansion was resumed so that Africa, the polar regions, 
the Matto Grosso, and New Guinea became familiar areas; 
population soared; production increased, even in periods 
of falling prices; knowledge expanded beyond any one per- 
son's comprehension; even democracy and science reached 
their greatest victories. Indeed, the nineteenth century in 

Western Civilization • 397 

terms of our description of an Age of Expansion could be 
the Age of Expansion par excellence. 

In the military and political levels the third Age of Ex- 
pansion was associated with such familiar historical develop- 
ments as the mass citizen army, the national state, and 
democracy. The shift to these from the older stages of these 
levels generally occurred during the era of the French Rev- 
olution and Napoleon. The reasons for these changes should 
be examined because, while often mentioned, they are rarely 

The second Age of Conflict had been associated with the 
professional mercenary army, the dynastic monarchy, and 
authoritarian government. On the economic and social levels 
it had been associated with mercantilism and the supremacy 
of the bureaucracy. As is well known, these last two stages 
were replaced, on their respective levels, by laissez-faire 
and the bourgeoisie in the nineteenth century. Any analysis 
of the process that gave rise to these extensive changes on 
all levels of culture might well begin with the military situa- 

In the second Age of Conflict the best available weapons 
in Western civilization were artillery, muskets, and pikes 
(or bayonets). These were difficult to use and usually ex- 
pensive to obtain. As a result they could be used only by 
trained men and could be bought only by a relatively well- 
to-do entity. Such trained men had to be professional users 
of weapons, and the weapons had to be provided by the 
state or by the wealthy. All of this taken together meant that 
weapons were available only to a small minority of the pop- 
ulation and that the majority must expect, as a general rule, 
to yield to the authority of the minority that controlled these 
weapons. Thus it followed, almost as a matter of course, 

398- The Evolution of Civilizations 

that the political level had to be authoritarian. The organiza- 
tion of that authority into a dynastic monarchy was a con- 
sequence of the governmental traditions of Europe. As the 
system operated, it was expected that allegiance and loyalty 
would be given to the family of the ruling monarch, in order 
to assure succession to his heir. This loyalty was not really 
expected from all persons, but only from the significant ones 
— the clergy, the nobility, the chief bourgeoisie, and all 
guild members and possibly from well-to-do independent 
peasantry, but the ordinary peasantry and the guild appren- 
tices, as persons of little significance, were not subjects of 
much concern about their allegiance of loyalty. The opera- 
tion of mercantilism and the social superiority of the royal 
bureaucracy were also dependent, if less directly, on the 
organization and control of the military level. Thus the 
structure of all four levels (military, political, economic con- 
trol, and social) was based on the military organization of 
professional mercenary soldiers. 

In the age of Napoleon and just after it, this military 
organization was modified greatly into a quite new system 
that survived for over a century. This innovation was the 
mass citizen army fighting for patriotism rather than for pay. 
The new organization was made possible by a series of in- 
novations in weapons and tactics, and in military, as well 
as political, organization. In weapons the arrival of the In- 
dustrial Revolution and of mass-produced firearms based on 
interchangeable parts lowered the cost of weapons at the 
same time that the general economic expansion was raising 
standards of living. These two intersecting factors made it 
possible for the average man, in areas where these factors 
were operating, to obtain guns at a cost that he could afford 
to pay (that is, no more than his earning power over a few 

Western Civilization »399 

weeks). These guns were becoming easier to use by the shift 
from spark ignition to percussion ignition and breechload- 
ing. All these innovations made it possible to arm large 
masses of men at relatively low cost. At the same time the 
shift to such a mass army was made possible by changes in 
political organization. 

The political organization that we have called dynastic 
monarchy could continue only so long as the best weapon 
available in the society could be obtained only by a minority. 
As soon as a majority could obtain the best available weapon 
and use it with little training, it became impossible for any 
minority to enforce obedience on a majority and, accord- 
ingly, the authoritarian structure of political life began to 
crumble. A reorganization of political life became necessary. 
This reorganization of the political structure had a double 
aspect. On the one hand it became necessary to shift from 
minority rule to majority rule, and on the other hand it 
became necessary to find a new political organization that 
could place its appeal to allegiance on a basis that could 
be used for the majority of the society. This new basis was 
nationalism, and the new organization, which succeeded 
the dynastic state in the early nineteenth century, is known 
as the national state (prevalent from about 1800 to about 

The political shift from dynastic monarchy to national 
state and the shift in weapons from a professional mercenary 
army to a mass army of citizens allowed the cost of a man's 
service to be reduced (since he fought for patriotism instead 
of for money) and permitted a great change in military 
tactics (since patriotic men were more willing to die than 
were mercenary soldiers). The older tactics of the dynastic 
monarchs had favored wars of maneuver with limited forces 

400 • The Evolution of Civilizations 

for limited aims. By "wars of maneuver" we mean tactics in 
which enemy forces were dislodged from their positions by 
cutting their communications and supplies rather than by 
assault, with battles occurring only rarely and chiefly from 
accidental collisions during shifts of position. Such wars 
were long drawn out, with few battles, and could be ended 
at any time by negotiation because of the possibility of 
compromising the combatants' limited and concrete goals. 
The advent of patriotic mass armies made it possible to 
force the enemy from his position by assault rather than by 
maneuver. The new tactics, worked out by Napoleon in the 
period 1795-1815, organized this assault in three steps: 
artillery barrage, bayonet attack by infantry, and cavalry 
pursuit. All three steps were innovations, but the greatest 
change was in the second where the bayonet was entirely 
transformed from its earlier role as a defensive weapon 
against cavalry to an offensive weapon against opposing 
infantry. It was the nature of this second, and central, step 
in the new tactics that made necessary the innovations in 
the use of artillery and cavalry in the two other steps. 
The possibility of heavy casualties in the second step of 
the new tactics, in which bayonets were sent against fire- 
power, made it necessary to obtain very high morale from 
citizen soldiers. This high morale could not be obtained so 
long as the aims of war remained, as in the earlier period, 
limited and concrete; they had to be made unlimited and 
idealistic ("saving the revolution" or "civilization," "making 
the world safe for democracy," "freedom of the seas," 
"rights of small nations," and similar unobtainable abstrac- 
tions). Such goals could not be compromised, and, accord- 
ingly, battles had to become conflicts of annihilation in 
which the survival of the contending regimes was at stake. 

Western Civilization »40 1 

Such battles of annihilation led to a series of brief "one 
battle" wars such as the French- Austrian War of 1859, the 
Prussian- Austrian War of 1866, the Franco-Prussian War 
of 1870, the Russo-Turkish War of 1877, and the Spanish- 
American War of 1899. Even as this pattern was being 
established, however, new forces were arising that laid the 
basis for quite a different pattern in the twentieth century. 
These new forces were (1) the growing importance of 
ideological forces, which made it less likely that a people 
would accept the consequences of death in a single battle, 
and (2) the growing strength of the tactical defensive, 
which made it less necessary to yield to such a defeat in one 
battle. The growing ideological influence was clearly evident 
in the American Civil War, the struggle with the French 
guerrillas, and the Paris Commune after Sedan in 1871, the 
Boer War of 1899-1902 and, above all, World War I. The 
growing importance of the defensive made the second step 
of a Napoleonic battle, the bayonet offensive, less and less 
likely to be decisive and made it less and less possible that 
the outcome of the battle itself could be decisive. The grow- 
ing strength of the defensive rested on the rapid growth of 
firepower after the invention of the machine gun about 1862 
(this made both bayonet and cavalry obsolete), the increas- 
ing use of field fortifications (this reduced the effectiveness 
of both artillery barrage and of offensive firepower), the 
invention of barbed wire about 1879 (this hampered the 
infantry charge of the second step and the cavalry pursuit 
of the third), and of the airplane in 1903 (this took from 
the cavalry its only surviving role as reconnaissance). The 
tactical changes made necessary by these innovations were 
not recognized by military men until after they had inflicted 
the almost unbearable casualties of 1916-17, but these 

402 • The Evolution of Civilizations 

changes (such as use of tanks, infiltration, aerial bombard- 
ment, and the like) made weapons once again so expensive 
and so difficult to use that it became increasingly needful to 
replace the mass citizen army by an army of specialists. 
Such a change, by reserving instruments of force to a mi- 
nority, reversed the trend on the political level to a new 
development from democracy toward authoritarian govern- 
ment. The date of this reversal might be fixed in 1934, the 
year that the German general Guderian read de Gaulle's 
book Army of Specialists. At the same time it became 
clear that rapid improvements in weapons, communications 
(radio), transportation (trucks), and organization made it 
possible to enforce obedience to orders over geographic 
distances far greater than those covered by any national 
groups. Accordingly, appeal to political allegiance on na- 
tionality grounds became obsolete and it became necessary 
to make such an appeal on some much wider basis. The 
new basis, now in process of being discovered was common 
ideological outlook. Accordingly the stage of the national 
state began to be replaced by the stage of the ideological 
state (or bloc) on the level of political organization, and 
the area covered by a single political unit widened from the 
nation to the Continental bloc. The inability of Hitler to 
make such a shift from a nationalist to an ideological (or 
other wider) basis at a time when his factual power was so 
much wider geographically than the area of Germanism was 
but one of his fatal errors. 

This change has been recognized in popular discussion 
and carried, perhaps, to a degree not justified by the actual 
facts. We are told that we now live in a "two-power world," 
although the power of the United States and of the Soviet 
Union is not in fact hemispherical. Each of these super- 

Western Civilization '403 

powers can, it is true, obtain obedience in most matters over 
about forty percent of the earth's surface, but this leaves a 
buffer area between, amounting to about a fifth of the earth. 
This "buffer fringe" lying between the Soviet "heartland" 
and the peripheral, and ocean-linked, Western civilization 
is occupied by the shattered remnants of dying civilizations 
or the hopeful efforts of incipient new civilizations. The 
hope of the future does not rest, as commonly believed, in 
winning the peoples of the "buffer fringe" to one superpower 
or the other, but rather in the invention of new weapons 
and new tactics that will be so cheap to obtain and so easy 
to use that they will increase the effectiveness of guerrilla 
warfare so greatly that the employment of our present weap- 
ons of mass destruction will become futile and, on this 
basis, there can be a revival of democracy and of political 
decentralization in all three parts of our present world. This 
possible development in military and political matters 
would, of course, require the development of decentralized 
economic techniques such as could arise if sunlight became 
the chief energy source for production and the advance of 
science made it possible to manufacture any desired sub- 
stance by molecular rearrangement of such common ma- 
terials as sea water, plant fibers, and ordinary earth. 
Hopes such as these are far in the future and could be 
fulfilled only if (1) a showdown conflict between the Soviet 
bloc and the Western bloc is indefinitely postponed and (2) 
the structural problems of Western civilization and the no 
less critical problems of the Soviet Union are solved. Here 
we shall consider only the situation in our own society. 
The third Age of Expansion of Western civilization be- 
gan to draw to its close at the end of the nineteenth century. 
By 1890 the rate of general expansion had begun to de- 

404' The Evolution of Civilizations 

crease, giving rise to acute crises in industry, agriculture, 
labor relations, political action, and international relations. 
These crises culminated in the beginnings of a new, third 
Age of Conflict in Western civilization. 

8. Third Age of Conflict 

The third Age of Conflict of our society began to display 
the ordinary marks of such a stage about 1890. At that time, 
in the principal industrial countries it became clear that the 
rate of expansion had reversed itself. This led to a frenzied 
effort by businessmen to organize in cartels and trade as- 
sociations in order to keep prices above competitive levels 
and to share shrinking markets rather than to compete, as 
formerly, for new ones. Along with this went loud demands 
for tariff protection and all kinds of restrictive agreements, 
tacit or explicit, restricting new investment or entry of new 
enterprises into an activity. Increased pressure was put on 
governments to favor industrialists, and business organiza- 
tions were formed to fight labor demands for any larger 
share of the goods being produced. 

At the same time, labor and agriculture were reacting in 
a similar fashion, forming political pressure groups or even 
political parties, and seeking common action to raise prices, 
divide markets, exclude foreign competition, and to strike 
back at organized industry, finance, or transportation. 
While these activities were occurring as symptoms for the 
usual decline in the rate of expansion and of the growing 
class conflicts associated with an Age of Conflict, the other 
marks of such a period were no less obvious. Imperialist 
wars developed from epidemic to endemic status in our cul- 

Western Civilization '405 

ture, beginning perhaps with the Boer War and the Spanish- 
American War, but rapidly expanding into a cycle of 
international stress and crises in which we still live. At the 
same time, on the intellectual level occurred a great upsurg- 
ing of irrationality. This latter development is associated 
with the eager acceptance of the theories of men like Freud, 
Bergson, or Sorel, and culminated in the utterly irrational 
activism of Hitler, Mussolini, and many lesser persons. All 
the characteristics of an age of irrationality began to appear 
on all sides — increased gambling, increased smoking, the 
growing use of alcohol and narcotics, a growing obsession 
with sex and with perversions of sex, an increasing mania 
for speed, for nervous tension, and for noise; above all, 
perhaps, a growing tendency to regard violence as a solution 
for all problems, be they domestic, social, economic, ideo- 
logical, or international. In fact, violence as a symbol of 
our growing irrationality has had an increasing role in 
activity for its own sake, when no possible justification 
could be made that the activity was seeking to solve a 

All these characteristics of any Age of Conflict are too 
obvious to require further comment. They arose, as is usual 
in an Age of Conflict, because the organizational patterns 
of our culture ceased to function as instruments but had 
become institutionalized. This process was evident on all 
levels of culture. Religious organizations no longer linked 
men to God but adopted diverse mundane purposes. Our 
intellectual theories no longer explained anything or made 
us at home in the universe. Our social patterns no longer 
satisfied our gregarious needs, even when we fled from the 
lonely anonymity of the city to the rat-race uniformity of 

406 • The Evolution of Civilizations 

suburbanism. Our political organizations increased the 
burden of their demands on our time, energy, and wealth 
but provided with growing ineffectiveness the justice, public 
order, education, protection, or incidental amenities we had 
come to expect from them. And, on the military level, costs 
rose at an astronomical rate without being able to catch up 
with our increasing danger. 

The core of our problems could be placed in any one of 
the levels we have mentioned. Indeed, there might be good 
grounds for arguing that the root of our problem was our 
success in making life an end rather than a means to some- 
thing higher. But, in this civilization as in others, it will 
be convenient to discuss the problem of our Age of Conflict 
in terms of the institutionalization of our instrument of 

In an earlier chapter we discussed this phenomenon as an 
example of the process in general (chapter five). At that 
time we said that the economic organization had become 
institutionalized by taking on purposes of its own separate 
from the purposes of the organization as a whole. The pur- 
pose of any economic system is to produce, distribute, and 
consume goods. If it can do this at an increasing rate (within 
limits), so much the better. Our economic system performed 
these functions more effectively than any other in history 
by organizing itself around "a profit motivation within a 
price structure." As it became institutionalized, profits be- 
came an end in themselves to the jeopardy of production, 
distribution, and consumption. The change arose because 
profits could be maximized only by increasing the margin 
between selling prices and costs of production. But high 
selling prices and high profit margins with low costs of 
production tended to reduce consumption of goods. And 

Western Civilization »407 

low consumption of goods, at a time when production fig- 
ures were constantly setting new maximum records, could 
only result in rising inventories and an indigestion of distri- 
bution that was bound to make goods back up to the fac- 
tories to smother production. 

This situation arose from a number of factors. During the 
nineteenth century, production had been emphasized in such 
a way as to distort the economic system as a whole, since 
such a system must also include distribution and consump- 
tion. Moreover, within the productive system the pursuit of 
profits had been emphasized to the neglect of any of the 
other necessary parts of the productive process. Put briefly, 
profits had become an end rather than a means. One conse- 
quence of this failure in coordination of the economic system 
as a whole and the even greater failure to coordinate the 
economic system in the civilization as a whole had been the 
growth of a very inequitable distribution of the wealth pro- 
duced by the economic system. Such an inequitable distri- 
bution of wealth was a very excellent thing as long as lack 
of capital was prevalent in the economic system, but such a 
maldistribution of income ceases to be an advantage as soon 
as the productive system has developed out of all propor- 
tion to the processes of distribution and of consumption. In 
the United States, according to the National Industrial Con- 
ference Board, the richest one-fifth of our population re- 
ceived 46.2 percent of the national income in 1910, 51.3 
percent of it in 1929, and 48.5 percent in 1937. In the same 
three years, the share of the poorest one-fifth of the popula- 
tion fell from 8.3 percent to 5.4 percent to 3.6 percent. Thus 
the ratios between the portion obtained by the richest one- 
fifth and that obtained by the poorest one-fifth increased in 
the three years mentioned from 5.6 to 9.3 to 13.5. If, instead 

408 • The Evolution of Civilizations 

of one-fifth, we examine the ratios between the percentage 
obtained by the richest one-tenth and the poorest one-tenth 
in the same three years we find that this ratio was 10 in 
1910, was 21.7 in 1929, and reached 34.4 in 1937. To 
some extent this situation was made worse by the growing 
separation, in the more advanced industrial areas, between 
ownership and control of corporations, since this led to an 
increased accumulation of undistributed profits held by the 
corporations in control of the management rather than dis- 
tributed as dividends to the owners. Such undistributed 
profits became savings with no possibility of serving as 
consumer purchasing power. 

These factors and a number of others that we have not 
space to mention here led to a situation where increasing 
proportions of the national income were going to those 
persons in the community who would be likely to save and 
decreasing proportions were going to those persons in the 
community who would spend their incomes for consumers' 
goods. This situation could continue as long as all the sav- 
ings made by the former group were invested in new capital 
or otherwise spent, because these actions would distribute 
such savings to persons who would use their incomes to buy 
goods. Only under these conditions (that all savings be 
invested or spent) could all goods produced be sold. 
The last statement can be expressed in a simple arith- 
metical relationship. In any single firm the total selling price 
of the goods produced is equal to the sum of their costs of 
production and their profits. In the economic community as 
a whole the aggregation of the selling prices of all firms will 
be the sum of aggregate costs plus aggregate profits. The 
incomes of the community as a whole are the same as the 
aggregate of the selling prices of all goods because the profits 

Western Civilization »409 

and costs of each firm are the incomes of those to whom 
they are paid. If savings are held back from these incomes, 
the purchasing power available to purchase the goods being 
offered for sale will be reduced below the prices being asked. 

Total prices = total costs + profits 
Total incomes = total costs + profits 

Total prices = total incomes 

But available purchasing power = incomes — savings + 
investment. Accordingly, the purchasing power available to 
buy the goods being offered at the prices being asked will 
be inadequate unless all savings are invested. 
During the world depression of 1929-38 all savings were 
not invested because there was no point in spending money 
on new capital plant so long as the goods being produced 
by the existing capital plant were going unsold because of 
the inequitable flow of incomes into the control of persons 
who wished to save rather than into the control of those who 
wished to consume. 

This crisis of the system was intensified by a number of 
other factors, notably the deflationary influence of a mone- 
tary system tied to a limited supply of gold under conditions 
of power production of goods. As a consequence the crisis 
was accompanied by a drastic price deflation that eventually 
led to a banking crisis and the end of the international gold 
standard. The date of this last event could be fixed at Sep- 
tember 21, 1931, when sterling, which had been the center 
of the whole world's financial network for more than a 
century, went off gold. Succinctly, the banking crisis arose 
when prices of goods fell so low that the banks could not 
liquidate collateral fast enough and at high-enough prices 

410 • The Evolution of Civilizations 

to provide sufficient funds to meet the demands made on 
their reserves. As confidence in the banking system de- 
creased, demands rose, reserves fell, and the liquidation of 
collateral could not keep up with either. Accordingly, banks 
could not fulfill their obligations and had to close their 
doors, go bankrupt, or call upon governments for help. The 
net result was the end of financial capitalism. 
This shift from financial capitalism to monopoly capital- 
ism was made possible by the very means that bankers de- 
veloped for their control of business firms. As we have seen, 
business firms came to bankers to obtain capital and were 
bound to remain under banking influence as long as their 
need for outside capital continued. To ensure continued 
banking control of these firms, bankers used such mechan- 
isms as interlocking directorships, holding companies, con- 
solidations, and controlled banking services. But these 
methods of banking control, by reducing competition be- 
tween firms, made it possible to seek profits by raising prices 
rather than by decreasing costs and thus made it possible 
for such firms to become self-financing of their own capital 
needs and, accordingly, to be freed from banking control. 
In the earlier period a firm could not seek profits by raising 
prices because both competition with other firms and the 
limited supply of money anchored to the limited supply of 
gold made it difficult to raise prices of any individual prod- 
uct. Accordingly, profits (which are the margin between 
prices and cost) had to be sought by reducing costs. This 
need, incidentally, placed the interest of labor in opposition 
to management, since wages formed the chief item in costs. 
Management thus, in the periods of industrial capitalism 
and in the following period of financial capitalism, was 
almost inevitably opposed to the unionization of labor. But 

Western Civilization «41 1 

once financial capitalism had brought considerable elements 
of monopoly into the picture (as J. P. Morgan did when he 
organized the United States Steel Corporation), decreased 
competition made it possible to increase profits by raising 
prices faster than costs. This made it possible for firms to 
become self-financing out of their own profits, to dispense 
with bankers' flotations and biased advice, and to reduce 
management's opposition to unionization of labor. As in- 
dustry became more heavily capitalized, wages became a 
decreasing portion of costs, and the value of uninterrupted 
use of the expensive capital plant made it advisable to avoid 
labor disputes and labor stoppages by allowing unionization 
of labor and higher wages, recovering the increased costs 
of higher wages by raising the increasingly noncompetitive 
prices of the products. Thus highly capitalized monopolistic 
industry became an exploitation of the absent consumer by 
management and labor jointly. At approximately the same 
time, the end of the international gold standard freed the 
supply of money from its dependence on the limited supply 
of gold (and from the maldistribution of gold arising from 
the bankers' mismanagement of the gold standard) and thus 
made it possible for prices to be raised, perhaps indefinitely 
by joint labor-management actions. And finally, in the same 
context of events, the pressure to raise wages was increased 
by the desire to provide increased purchasing power to buy 
the growing flood of goods being produced. 
The shift from financial capitalism to monopoly capital- 
ism made possible a new period of expansion in Western 
civilization, but before that new mechanism could be used 
for expansive purposes the institutionalization of the previ- 
ous organization of financial capitalism had thrown the 
whole society into an Age of Conflict. It is not yet clear if 

412 • The Evolution of Civilizations 

the society will be destroyed as a consequence of this or if it 
will be able to straighten itself on a new course of expansion. 
The structure of the new system is entirely different from 
that which existed in the period of financial capitalism before 

In that earlier period the two chief differences were (1) 
that the whole economic system was dominated by bankers 
and financiers, especially by investment bankers, and (2) 
that, as a result, the system had a financial mechanism that 
was basically deflationary because the volume of money was 
determined, in the final analysis, by the limited supply of gold. 
As a consequence of the first of these characteristics, the 
lines of prestige and influence in the system passed from 
financiers to heavy industry and then to light industry and 
commerce, after which they were diffused among petty 
bourgeois clerks, farmers, laborers, bureaucrats, and service 
workers. As a consequence of the world depression, finance 
was reduced to a subordinate role and a struggle arose about 
the arrangement of the other groups. In fascist states, in- 
dustry, commerce, and petty bourgeois, by abolishing any 
forms of political democracy, sought to establish authori- 
tarian regimes in which industry with its allies could exploit 
farmers, laborers, and consumers in general in order to favor 
producers in general. In "New Deal" and democratic states 
this did not occur, but instead labor, farmers, commercial 
groups, and to some extent consumers in general were 
strengthened and all groups (including reduced finance) 
became satellites around the governmental system. The 
control of money supply, which had been one of the chief 
attributes of the banking group before 1929, became an 
attribute of the government after 1945, and the government 
exercised its control under pressure from the shifting alii- 

Western Civilization • 413 

ances and alignments of the great economic power blocs that 
surrounded it. These blocs came to include: (1) finance, 
(2) heavy industry, (3) light industry, (4) commercial and 
service groups (such as real estate), (5) civil servants, 
(6) the armed services, (7) labor, (8) farmers, (9) trans- 
portation, and others. If any one or several of these blocs 
become too obviously exploitative of the others, the others 
form an alignment to pressurize the government in another 
direction. The chief consequence of such alignments and 
pressures has been to increase government spending and 
thus to increase inflation. In general all these pressures have 
sought to achieve some redistribution of economic resources 
among the three chief claimants to these resources; these 
three are consumption, capital accumulation, and govern- 
ment services (including defense). In the financial capitalist 
system before 1929, the great danger had been the great 
diversion of resources toward capital accumulation to the 
jeopardy of the two others. In the new pluralistic system 
that has arisen, the great danger in many countries has been 
toward increasing consumption to the jeopardy of capital 
accumulation and public service. This danger has frequently 
appeared as a tendency toward inflation that would destroy 
capital accumulation by destroying savings. 
At the present time it is too early to judge if the present 
crisis of Western civilization will resolve itself into a new, 
fourth Age of Expansion, or will continue through an Age 
of Conflict to a universal empire and ultimately to decay 
and invasion. 

In any case the immediate future seems to offer to West- 
ern society a culture in which, on various levels, an army of 
specialists serves an ideological state, supported by a plural- 
ist economy regulated by planning (both public and private) 

414- The Evolution of Civilizations 

in a society in which the dominant social class is made up of 
managers (rather than owners, bankers, voters, or others). 
In this culture the nature of the intellectual and religious 
levels will depend on whether the whole system continues in 
a period of conflict or turns toward a new Age of Expansion. 


\X/hat is the point of all this? Looking back over our 
" * discussion, it seems to me that at least six chief points 
readily emerge. 

In the first place, I have sought to emphasize the differ- 
ence between knowledge and understanding in the field of 
history. To know is not too demanding: it merely requires 
memory and time. But to understand is quite a different 
matter: it requires intellectual ability and training, a self- 
conscious awareness of what one is doing, experience in 
techniques of analysis and synthesis, and above all, per- 
spective. Moreover, perspective requires a familiarity with 
the units of social aggregations and a recognition that 
understanding can be achieved only if we tackle societies 
and that it cannot be reached if we try to deal with social 
groups determined by geographic areas, political units, 
religion, nations (linguistic or "cultural"), or by intellectual 
categories such as veterans or middle class. To obtain 
knowledge we must use such groups, but to obtain under- 
standing we must use the only group that is comprehensible: 
the society. 
There is nothing very original in this first point, since it is, 

416 • The Evolution of Civilizations 

among others, advocated by Toynbee in the first volume of 
his A Study of History, but it has not been accepted by 
historians, who, in practice, continue to deal with noncom- 
prehensible units such as states or nations. Moreover, Toyn- 
bee never defined his terms, and constantly violated his 
own precepts in his own practice. 

The second major point is the recognition that civiliza- 
tions pass through a process of rise and fall. This is, of 
course, one of the oldest cliches in any "philosophy of 
history," and no claims to originality on that score could be 
made for this present book. But I have sought to go beyond 
the mere recognition of "rise and fall" to seek to find the 
mechanism of the process. Here I do not feel entitled to 
make any claim to startling originality because the process I 
describe — the institutionalization of social instruments — is 
clearly what was at the back of the minds of a number of 
earlier writers on the philosophy of history. I have sought 
to make the process explicit, so that it can be recognized 
and analyzed more readily and so that turning points in 
the process can be established with greater confidence. At 
the same time I have given, I hope, sufficient warning that 
this process is neither rigid nor single in any society, but 
rather that each civilization is a confused congeries of such 
processes in all types of human activities and that the explicit 
recognition or description of one such organization as the 
independent factor in a medley of mutually dependent 
factors is not a description of the reality (which is far too 
complex for any historian to describe it adequately), but is 
a technique for dealing with an irrational process similar to 
that used by a mathematician who deals with the irrationality 
of change by the use of a calculus based on untrue assump- 
tions involving finite increments or on an assumed distinc- 

Conclusion '417 

tion between an independent variable and dependent vari- 
ables. For the historian, as for the mathematician, I should 
advise that the chief task must not be a vain search for the 
factor that is independent but an explicit recognition that we 
are assuming the independence of one variable. 
A third conclusion, derived from the second, is concerned 
with periodization in history. It has been clear for a long 
time that the periodizations now used are unsatisfactory. 
The division of ancient history into a Greek period, a Helle- 
nistic period, and a Roman period makes no sense at all, can 
be maintained only by making the second period (connect- 
ing two linguistic divisions) vague and undefined, and 
clearly requires numerous violations of chronological order. 
Attempts have been made to get around these weaknesses in 
the customary division by efforts, such as Sanford's (in a 
textbook) to divide the Classical world into several geo- 
graphic areas that advance chronologically side by side; 
these have been far from successful. In European history 
the same problem of periodization has been causing even 
greater dissatisfaction. The existing division into medieval, 
Renaissance, modern, and contemporary history has pleased 
no one (and has been most displeasing to the specialists on 
the Renaissance), but no substitute for these long-estab- 
lished divisions has been found. The greatest problem has 
arisen in the Renaissance period because of its wholly am- 
biguous relationship to the medieval period, a relationship 
that remains ambiguous because of the mistaken effort to 
treat the Middle Ages as a single period. As a consequence 
we find medieval history, to nonmedievalists, represented by 
a welter of contradictions called "renaissance of the twelfth 
century," "Age of Authority" (or Faith), "Dark Ages," and 
other totally misleading verbal tags. My division of the mil- 

418 • The Evolution of Civilizations 

lennium 400-1400 into the four stages of Mixture, Gesta- 
tion, Expansion, and Conflict solves many of these 
difficulties, provides tools with which to analyze aberrations 
like the Carolingian revival, and, above all, provides a 
vocabulary for dealing with the problem. 
On the whole, the division into seven stages is largely my 
own except that I have used Toynbee's ideas, if not his 
nomenclature, with reference to the last four or five stages. 
The great advantage that my seven stages provides over 
Toynbee's recognition of the last five of them rests in my 
insistence that any division into stages must be based on 
analysis of the process of "rise and fall" that is being dis- 
cussed. It is not sufficient merely to describe and to devise 
name tags for stages based on such description. This is 
what Toynbee has done, and this is why Toynbee is so 
notably unsatisfactory in dealing with the earlier stages of 
any civilization's evolution. Toynbee's process of "Challenge 
and Response" explains nothing, is based on a mistaken 
Darwinian biological analogy, and provides no technique 
for analyzing a society or for communication with others 
about it. It is true that societies are challenged and either 
do or do not respond to these challenges. This is so true as 
to be quite unhelpful. The important point is why a society 
responds or fails to respond, how we can judge the likelihood 
of either beforehand, and what is the consequence of either 
alternative. Moreover, Toynbee's failure, already sufficiently 
emphasized, to correlate his process with his division into 
stages is a major weakness. 

Toynbee's failure to provide a satisfactory analysis of 
process explains his failure to understand, or to provide 
stages for, the first part of a civilization's existence. The 
whole process of mixture, gestation, and incipient expansion 

Conclusion '419 

is of vital concern to us today when the buffer fringe between 
the Western and the Soviet blocs, from Morocco to Indo- 
nesia, offers a real challenge in this very regard. Here Toyn- 
bee has almost nothing to offer, either to the peoples of those 
areas who are struggling to establish viable societies or to 
us who are trying to understand what is happening there. 
A fifth contribution I have tried to make is concerned with 
vocabulary. This contribution has two parts. On the one 
hand, I have tried to provide a vocabulary sufficiently well 
defined to allow communication between students of these 
problems, yet sufficiently realistic to assist explanations of 
what is happening or did happen in any society. On the 
other hand (and this is a major point), I have tried to 
establish some degree of sophistication in the use of histori- 
cal vocabulary so that awareness of the subjective nature of 
most intellectual categories dealing with historical facts 
will be maintained. I am sure that my vocabulary is far from 
perfect; this is inevitable. The real point is that my vocabu- 
lary is fruitful: fruitful in research projects, in arousing 
original questions and interpretations, and in making com- 
munication between historians more helpful. No vocabulary 
is perfect; like everything else it is an instrument that be- 
comes an institution, serving eventually to hamper thought 
and communication about these important matters. When 
that occurs, the old vocabulary of cliches must be circum- 
vented or reformed. As it is now, the vocabulary of periodi- 
zation and the vocabulary of analysis (by aspects or 
"levels") hamper historical understanding, particularly by 
encouraging specialization, either by period or by subject, 
in areas that are unreal, defunct, and much too narrow. The 
best histories of the future will emerge from work that 
straddles the older, obsolete, and unrealistic boundary lines. 

420 • The Evolution of Civilizations 

In fact, it is possible today to attract favorable attention 
simply by pointing out the artificial nature of these older 
boundary lines. 

All this leads to the sixth contribution offered by this 
book. It tries to provide techniques for dealing with history 
or with social problems in general. For years I have told my 
students that I have been trying to train executives rather 
than clerks. The distinction between the two is parallel to 
the distinction previously made between understanding and 
knowledge. It is a mighty low executive who cannot hire 
several people with command of more knowledge than he 
has himself. And he can always buy reference works or 
electronic devices with better memories for facts than any 
subordinate. The chief quality of an executive is that he have 
understanding. He should be able to make decisions that 
make it possible to utilize the knowledge of other persons. 
Such executive capacity can be taught, but it cannot be 
taught by any educational program that emphasizes knowl- 
edge and only knowledge. Knowledge must be assumed as 
given, and if it is not sufficient the candidate must be elimi- 
nated. But the vital thing is understanding. This requires 
possession of techniques that, fortunately, can be taught. 
The historian who is on an executive level rather than on 
a clerical level because he can make decisions and under- 
stands the materials with which he deals must have tech- 
niques of analysis, of morphological understanding, of 
developmental processes, and of evolutionary changes. I 
have tried to suggest, in an introductory fashion, the kind of 
techniques that might be used. Tensions and social conflicts 
can be analyzed in terms of the struggle between instruments 
and institutions, or of the morphological relationships be- 
tween levels, or of the relationship, which I hardly men- 

Conclusion »421 

tioned, between fact and law. Clashes between areas and be- 
tween groups must be analyzed in similar terms. Failure to 
use such techniques leads to childish judgments on historical 
events just as, among practicing politicians, it leads to 
childish decisions in world problems. 

An example of how such techniques may be used in 
history might be helpful. For years I have been teaching 
students that historians come up against four kinds of 
problems. These are: (1) informational problems; (2) 
logical problems; (3) analytical problems; and (4) chrono- 
logical problems. Techniques, capable of being taught, can 
be devised for dealing with each of these. The use of such 
techniques not only provides a method of attack on such 
problems; even more valuable is the fact that it makes us 
aware of the distinction between the problem and our ap- 
proach to it; it becomes possible to judge the degree of 
inadequacy in our own performance or the degree to which 
our method of attack determines the kind of answer we get. 
Probably the achievement of such sophisticated self-aware- 
ness is the chief value to be derived from awareness of one's 
techniques, their adequacy, and their character. 
The techniques I have discussed as instruments for deal- 
ing with the past have value outside the study of history, for 
they are equally useful in dealing with the present or the 
future. I sometimes demonstrate this to my students by 
imagining that one of them is called upon to lead a United 
States government commission of inquiry to Brazil, a coun- 
try of which he knows little. I show how the techniques of 
analysis applied by me to past history can be used to 
approach this task by helping the leader to decide which 
experts he should take with him, how their assignments 
should be set on their arrival in Brazil, and how their 

422 • The Evolution of Civilizations 

results, at the end, should be coordinated to provide an 
adequate picture of a functioning Brazil beset by actual 

The value of these techniques, since they seek under- 
standing rather than knowledge, is constantly high and has, 
if anything, increased in recent years. These years have 
seen, since Sputnik, a dramatic increase in the prestige of 
science and in the use of scientists in dealing with world 
problems. I should be the last person to regret this develop- 
ment, but, as a scientist, in the social sciences, I know that 
the problems of the world are not solved by the use of the 
natural sciences alone. Indeed, the direction and the coordi- 
nation of scientific activities with respect to world problems 
require guidance and supervision by persons with a wider 
perspective than that provided by specialization in the natural 
sciences. Such perspective can best be found in the study 
of the past. With such perspective the techniques I have 
described in this volume as instruments for the study of the 
past can be used to guide natural scientists and other 
workers in dealing with the problems of the present and the 

Selective Bibliography 
By William Marina 

r I 1 he following is not intended as a complete listing of all 
■*- of the writings of Carroll Quigley. A definitive list 
should be completed after a careful examination of the more 
than thirty boxes of materials which he left to the library at 
Georgetown University, and which are still being organized. 
Rather, this listing contains some of his more readily avail- 
able writings which might be of interest to the reader who 
has enjoyed The Evolution of Civilizations, as well as cita- 
tions to several reviews of his two major works. 
At the time of his death, Quigley was at work on a study 
which had occupied him for years and which might be called 
the sociology of weaponry; that is, the way in which the 
structure and development of civilizations are to a consid- 
erable extent a reflection of the weapons systems and mili- 
tary organization prevalent within a society. Drafts of this 
study, some two thousand pages in length, are in the papers 

Dr. Marina is Professor in Business, Communications, and History at 
Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. He is coauthor of Ameri- 
can Statesmen on Slavery and the Negro (1971), author of Egalitar- 
ianism and Empire (1975), and associate editor of News of the 
Nation: A Newspaper History of the United States (1976). 

424- The Evolution of Civilizations 

left at Georgetown. His own feelings about this work are 
perhaps best conveyed by a comment made in delivering the 
initial Oscar Iden Lecture at the School of Foreign Service 
at Georgetown University only a few weeks before his death: 

Another thing which may serve to point out the instability of 
the power system of the state: the individual cannot be made the 
basic unit of society, as we have tried to do, or of the state, since 
the internalization of controls must be the preponderant influ- 
ence in any stable society. . . . 

Also related to the problem of internalized controls is the 
shift of weapons in our society. This is a profound problem. I 
have spent ten years working on it throughout all of history, 
and I hope eventually to produce a book if I can find a publisher. 
There will be endless analyses of Chinese history and Byzantine 
history and Russian history and everything else, and the book 
is about nine-tenths written, I'd say, in the last ten years. The 
shift of weapons in any civilization and, above all, in our civili- 
zation, from shock weapons to missile weapons, has a dominant 
influence on the ability to control individuals. . . . 

In our society, individual behavior can no longer be con- 
trolled by any system of weaponry we have. In fact, we do not 
have enough people, even if we equip them with shock weapons, 
to control the behavior of that part of the population which does 
not have internalized controls. One reason for that, of course, 
is that the twenty percent who do not have internalized controls 
are concentrated in certain areas. I won't go into the subject of 
controls. It opens up the whole field of guerrilla resistance, ter- 
rorism, and everything else; these cannot be controlled by any 
system or organized structure of force that exists, at least on the 
basis of missile weaponry. And, as I said, it would take too many 
people on the basis of shock weaponry. We have now done what 
the Romans did when they started to commit suicide: we have 
shifted from an army of citizen soldiers to an army of merce- 
naries, and those mercenaries are being recruited in our society, 
as they were in Roman society, from the twenty percent of the 
population which does not have the internalized controls of the 
civilization. 1 

1 "Public Authority and the State in the Western Tradition," pp. 34-35. 

Selective Bibliography *425 

I deeply appreciate the efforts of Professor Quigley's 
widow, Mrs. Lillian Quigley, a fine scholar and writer in her 
own right, to make available to me her husband's work 
relating to the philosophy of history, the sociology of 
weaponry, and its influence on civilization. To borrow a 
phrase from Quigley's title, Tragedy and Hope, his death 
was a tragedy which deprived us of the full measure of his 
brilliant analyses about the development of civilizations. My 
examination of his papers also suggests hope, for he left in 
manuscript a vast addenda to what he had earlier begun. 
I am certain a great deal of this material will eventually 
find its way into print, but The Evolution of Civilizations 
is the indispensable first step toward understanding Quig- 
ley's interpretation of human action and history. 


The Evolution of Civilizations. New York: Macmillan, 

1961; Indianapolis: Liberty Press, 1979. 

La Evolucion de las Civilizaciones. Mexico City: Hermes, 


A Evolucao das Civilazacoes. Rio de Janeiro: Editora 

Fundo de Cultura, 1963. 

See the reviews of the English edition in the American 

Historical Review 67 (July 1962):987; Christian Science 

Monitor, January 8, 1962; Kirkus Review, September 1, 

1961, p. 838; Library Journal, November 1, 1961, p. 3788; 

School and Society, October 6, 1962, p. 321; and Social 

Education 26 (April 1962) :219. 

Tragedy and Hope: The World in Our Time. New York: 
Macmillan, 1965. 

426 • The Evolution of Civilizations 

The World Since 1939. New York: Collier Books, 1968. 
A reprint of the last half of Tragedy and Hope. 
Among the reviews are: American Historical Review 
72 (October 1966): 123; Annals of the American Academy 
368 (November 1966):244; Best Sellers, February 15, 
1966, p. 434; Book Week, January 16, 1966; Choice 3 
(June 1966) :348; Library Journal, August 1965, p. 3284; 
New York Times Book Review, January 23, 1966, and 
Quigley's reply to same, with the reviewer's rejoinder, in 
the February 20, 1966, issue; Saturday Review, February 
12, 1966, p. 34; and Virginia Quarterly Review 42 (Spring 


"Falsification as a Source in Risorgimento History." Jour- 
nal of Modern History 20 (September 1948) :223-26. 
"The Origin and Diffusion of Oculi." American Neptune, 
July 1955; and rejoinder in ibid., January 1958. 
"Aboriginal Fish Poisons and the Diffusion Problem." Amer- 
ican Anthropologist 58 (June 1956) :508-25. 
"Comparative Cultural Developments." The Community 
Development Review (December 1957). 
"French West Africa." Current History 34 (February 1958): 

"Education in Overseas France." Current History 35 (Au- 
gust 1958): 102-11. 

"The French Community and Western Security." Current 
History 39 (August 1960): 101-7. 
"French Tropical Africa: Today and Tomorrow." Current 
History 40 (February 1961):77-87. 

Selective Bibliography '427 

"Belgium"; "France"; "Italy"; "North Atlantic Treaty Or- 
ganization"; and "The Netherlands." In Funk and Wag- 
nails, New International Yearbook. New York: Funk and 
Wagnalls, 1961, 1963. 

"The Round Table Groups in Canada, 1908-1938." The 
Canadian Historical Review 43 (September 1962) :204- 

"The Brazzaville Twelve." Current History 43 (December 

"Weapons Control as Seen from Abroad." Current History 
46 (June 1964). 

"The Creative Writer Today." Catholic World 206 (Decem- 
ber 1967):111-17. 

"France and the United States in World Politics." Current 
History 54 (March 1968): 151-59. 
"Needed: A Revolution in Thinking." National Education 
Association Journal 57 (May 1968): 8-10. 
"Lord Balfour's Personal Position on the Balfour Declara- 
tion (ed.). Middle East Journal 22 (Summer 1968): 

"Major Problems of Foreign Policy." Current History 55 
(October 1968): 199-206. 

"Our Ecological Crisis." Current History 59 (July 1970): 

"Youth's Heroes Have No Halos." Today's Education 36 
(April 1971):46-48. 

"Assumption and Inference on Human Origins." Current 
Anthropology 12 (October-December 1971):519-40; 
and discussion in ibid. 14 (October 1973) :499-502. 
"General Crises in Civilizations." American Association for 
the Advancement of Science news release, 1972. 

428- The Evolution of Civilizations 

"Cognitive Factors in the Evolution of Civilizations." Main 

Currents in Modern Thought 29 (November — December 


"The Search for a Solution to the World Crisis." Futurist 9 

(March 1975): 38-41. 

"America's Future in Energy." Current History 69 (July 


"Public Authority and the State in the Western Tradition: 

A Thousand Years of Growth, 976-1976." The Oscar 

Iden Lectures. Washington: School of Foreign Service, 

Georgetown University, 1977.